An Essay on the Springs Near Luraville
I'll bet you've never been to Luraville, Florida, and you may not have ever heard of this tiny crossroads by the Suwannee River. Located 15 miles south of Live Oak halfway between Gainesville and Tallahassee, Luraville has a flashing light, gas station, and a church. Oh, and there are also two dive shops because Luraville may have more springs than people.
In a state with more springs than anywhere else, nondescript Luraville is "spring central." Within 10 miles of the town are at least 25, including Telford, Bathtub, Cow, Peacock, Orange Grove, Bonnet, Blue,Convict, Charles, Luraville, Pump, Thomas, Royal, and Running. Some of the springs are state- or county-managed, but many are on private land with varying accessibility.
The best known site is Peacock, which was purchased by the Nature Conservancy in the 1980s and is now a State Recreation Area. Peacock is a scuba mecca and gateway to an underwater cave system that has been mapped for several miles. The recreation area also contains lovely sinkholes that tap into the aquifer, and there is another beautiful sink just across the road. But while Peacock is great for divers, there is not much for anyone else to do, so let's move on.
The main local hangout is Telford Spring, which is two minutes from the flashing light. A low, sandy spring along the river, Telford has clear water flowing from a cave 16 feet down. The key-shaped spring and its run create a strong current. Although on private property, there is free access to the spring, which also contains the obligatory rope swing on the river. Heavy local use has badly eroded the land around the spring, and you need to watch for bottle caps and occasional broken glass. On the other hand, it's the kind of place where no one will notice that your belly hangs out, men spit without guilt, women wear bras as bikini tops, and boiled peanuts are available on weekends.
A few minutes away is Charles Spring, which is more attractive and managed by the Suwannee River Water Mgt. District. Once you find the spring down dirt roads, you will see two limestone bridges forming two shallow pools. The flow creates a wade-able 250-foot run to the Suwannee and tumbles into the river in a 4-foot waterfall. It is a great place for swimming or for a picnic with or without children.
The other area springs take a bit more searching. Aftergetting directions from the dive shop, head for Running Springs in thefarmland beyond Peacock. You'll pass Cow Spring along the way. Cow is aclear-blue spring about 25 feet deep and set in heavy woods, brooding quietly amidst its limestone boulders. Linked to the Peacock cave system, Cow is owned by the Speleological Section of the U.S. Cave Diving Society and is open to the public.
200 yards away and on the Suwannee itself is Running Springs. The main pool is breathtaking in its pristine beauty. Dozens of small vents create a circular swimming and wading area about 30 feet across at the bottom of a steep bank. A fallen tree makes a natural bridge over the spring, which has a powerful waterfall into the river. Water seems to come up from everywhere, and the snorkeler will never tire of the underwater sights. Just past the rope swing nearby is Running Spring #2, which creates a pretty run that is great for wading. Running is entirely shaded, so it needs to be a warm day or you will quickly be chilled.
Bathtub can only be accessed from the river--you will need directions from the locals--but it is simply the prettiest little spring ever, with sparkling azure water forming a 12-foot-wide natural pool that is the perfect cool tub. You may hear the legend of the drowned drunk when you visit.
You have to look a bit to find these diamonds in the rough country that surrounds them. By their nature, springs are down and away, hidden by trees and sloping land, and many are unmarked. They make you work to find them, but then reward you by overflowing with all their secrets and beauty. The next time you're traveling along U.S. 27, turn north at Mayo, cross the trestle bridge over the Suwannee and spend some time in spring central.
Springs Near (within 10 miles of) Luraville
In a line that runs from the northwest to the southeast along the Suwannee River lie at least 25 springs. At the center of this concentration is the hamlet of Luraville, north and east of the river in Suwannee County about five miles north of Mayo. The majority of the springs line the river,but some--Peacock and Orange Grove being the most notable--are inland on the east bank. Several of the springs are currently either protected by the state (Allen Mill Pond, Charles, Peacock, Orange, Bonnet, and Royal) or otherwise open to the public and readily accessible (Blue, Telford, Cow, and Convict). A number of others can be reached by land or water without trespassing, although several are very difficult to locate. The rest are on private property.
The springs range greatly in description, size, condition, and utilization. In addition, the character of the springs varies dramatically based on the level of rainfall and the height of the Suwannee River. Some have no flow at all when the river is low, and many are hidden by the tannic-acid-water of the Suwannee when the river is high. Of the springs in this group, only a few--Blue, Telford, Royal--offer real swimming opportunities. Several more, including Peacock, Orange Grove, Bonnet, and Convict, are popular or even renowned scuba sites.