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Blue Spring State Park
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Blue Spring State Park

Blue Spring State Park is located in Orange City, Florida (28.940N,-81.338W). Each Winter, more than 100 hundred different manatees migrate to and visit the protected sanctuary known as the Blue Spring "Run".

The Run is like a wide stream that "runs" from inside the Park down to the St. Johns River, a distance of about 1/3 mile. The water in the Run originates from a hot spring, and remains at a constant 72 degrees F (22.2 degrees C). The spring is located inside the Park, at that end of the Run known as the "Boil".

Listen to Ranger Wayne Describe the Boil

Blue Spring--The Early Years
Click to enlarge Diagram of the "Run"

For hundreds of years the Timucuan Indians made the spring area their home. The spring run, river and the surrounding swamps anduplands provided food, clothing, shelter and materials for tools and weapons. Snails gathered from sandbars were staple food for these people. Over the centuries, the discarded shells formed a massive mound.

Three years after England acquired Florida from Spain, John Bartram, a prominent British botanist, explored the St. Johns River in search of resources of value to the Crown. On January 4, 1766, he rowed his boat past sunning alligators into the clear waters of Blue Spring.

By the mid-1800's, most of the Indians had been killed or driven south and pioneer settlers took their place. In 1872, the Thursby family built a large frame house atop the Indians' shellmound, safe from the floodwaters of the St. Johns. The pilings of the steamboat dock remain, relics of a bygone area.

Deep Passage
The Boil

Ripples on the water surface at the Boil show that this is the outlet of a massive water flow from a great spring below. In fact, each day the spring pushes 104 million gallons of 72 degree water up from the limestone caverns below.

Scuba divers regularly explore the shaft which the spring water surges up from, and it is quite amazing. They enter the shaft at the Boil. To start their descent, they pass by several underwater logs that are crossed over the shaft. Then they descend against the rising water current. At 103 feet beneath the water surface, the shaft opens into a round chamber.At the base, a large "Cork" rock partially blocks the shaft, which continues directly downward from the chamber. The strong flow and great pressure at that depth prevent divers from progressing further toward the unknown source of Blue Spring.

Model of the Boil Diagram of the Boil

Saved for Manatees and People
Unfortunately, years ago, the Run was open to boats and unrestricted swimming, and swimmers and campers could get very close to the Boil area without rules. As a result, this dark room at the base of the Boil shaft is littered with debris--both man made and natural. Railroad spikes and parts of cars have been seen amidst old logs and fossil-baring rocks. Fortuantely for the Run and the manatees, use of the Run and the Boil is restricted now, and conditions are much better.
(Click on image for a closer "before" look)

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