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Florida Springs History

View of Shangri La SpringGeologists estimate that there are more than 900 springs in the state of Florida, representing what may be the largest concentration of freshwater springs on Earth.

Archaeological evidence indicates that people have been attracted to Florida’s springs for thousands of years. The springs made the perfect home for Native Floridians who used them as a source of water and food, while the clay taken from the spring’s bottom was ideal for making arrowheads, spear heads and knives.

The first spring dwellers coexisted with mighty animals such as the mastodon, mammoth, ground sloth, giant beaver and giant armadillo. During the last Ice Age, 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, sea level was as much as 300 feet below present levels.

As the last of the Ice Age came to a close in Florida, many environmental changes were occurring. Global weather patterns changed and sea levels began to rise. The large animals that had once roamed the Florida landscape were becoming extinct. As these drastic changes were taking place, Florida's human inhabitants learned to adapt.

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The Exploration of La Florida

View of Silver Springs Later arrivals to Florida, Ponce de Leon, John and William Bartram and other explorers, were drawn to the subterranean discharges of freshwater scattered across central and northern Florida.

Springs continued to be a focus of human activity as colonists and settlers moved into Florida. Springs served as locations for Spanish missions, steamboat landings, gristmills and post offices. They were used as baptism sites for churches, as sources of drinking water for homesteads and as reservoirs for irrigating crops. In the middle to late 1800s many of Florida’s springs served as magnets for development, attracting settlers, tourists and railroads. A few springs gave birth to towns, including Silver Springs in Marion County, Green Cove Spring in Clay County and De Leon Springs in Volusia County.

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The Power of the Springs

Some of Florida’s springs were valued for their perceived therapeutic qualities. People flocked to these springs to soak in the medicinal waters. Health resorts at several springs attracted thousands of tourists in the early 1900s. People sought the healing powers of White Springs in Hamilton County. Panacea Mineral Springs in Wakulla County was the site of the 125-guest Panacea Hotel. Worthington Springs, in Union County, now completely dry, once beckoned visitors to drink from and bathe in the healing waters. And Warm Mineral Springs, in Sarasota County, still attracts visitors to its year-round 87 degree waters.

Many Florida springs provide recreational opportunities for swimmers, boaters, wildlife observers and cave divers such as Blue Spring (Madison County), Ichetucknee Springs (Columbia County) and Blue Spring (Volusia County).

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Florida Springs Today

People swimming at Ginnie SpringSprings continue to attract people with their unique beauty. They have provided immeasurable natural, recreational and economic benefits for residents and visitors for more than a century. Ginnie Springs is one of the most popular freshwater diving locations in the world. More than a dozen Florida state parks protect the springs for which they are named. The springs' provide recreational opportunities to visitors and several million dollars to the local economy each year.

Florida’s springs serve as windows to the mysteries of the Floridan Aquifer, as home for diverse wildlife communities and as facorite recreation sites for many residents and visitors. The challenge lies in preserving the water quality of Florida’s springs while meeting the needs of Florida’s residents, visitors and wildlife.

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Last updated: April 11, 2014

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