Springs of the Mill Pond

September 01, 2015  •  63 Comments

Merritts Mill PondMerritts Mill Pond

Given all the paddling trips and adventures I've made along the Chipola River, you'd think I'd have explored one of its major tributaries, Merritts Mill Pond before this year. But this past summer, after being inspired by photos made by other divers, my pal, John Moran called to say we need to check this place out.  The Mill Pond -- created in the 1860s by a dam built to run a grist mill -- is really a giant spring run fed by multiple beautiful North Florida springs.  The head spring, Jackson Blue is an impressive first magnitude spring and the location of a very popular summer county park.

Jackson Blue Cavern VistaJackson Blue Cavern Vista

Jackson Blue Spring: in the cavern, looking out.

Our first stop was Edd Sorenson's dive shop called Cave Adventurers right on the Mill Pond.  Edd and his staff were generous with information and tips about the Pond and springs. So, filled with excitement and armed with a great little map from Edd, we launched John's boat at the end of Day Loop Road for a two day scouting trip. Wow! We were blown away... and you'll soon see why.

John Moran on his jonnypod, doing what he does best.

Swimming at Jackson BlueSwimming at Jackson Blue

As this July day heats up, people begin pouring into Blue Spring Recreation Area.

Bluewater CypressBluewater Cypress

Bluewater Cypress.

Oxygen GenerationOxygen Generation

The eel grass near Jackson Blue is so thick and healthy that I can see trails of oxygen bubbles fizzing to the surface.  And the flowers are often capped by a big O2 bubble.

Shangri La Spring FunShangri La Spring Fun

From Blue, we head to nearby Shangri La Spring... here with local boys assessing their courage.

Spring HuntingSpring Hunting

John aboard his customized jonboat at Shangri La.

Boy FishBoy Fish

This young fish is experiencing pure joy during his underwater forays.

Inner SanctumInner Sanctum

Inner Sanctum.  Below the surface at Shangri La is a small cave.  Here's looking in.

Snorkling into DarknessSnorkling into Darkness

I can't resist wriggling through that tunnel. Here's looking back out.

Cave MermaidCave Mermaid

A local mermaid glides into the Inner Sanctum through the underwater passage.  What can I say? Shangri La.

Rising from Twin CaveRising from Twin Cave

Our next stop was Twin Cave.  John's coming out past a rocky rainbow.

Cavern GhoulCavern Ghoul

 Inside Twin Cave, I look up to see this Cavern Ghoul staring down at me.

Apple Snail SplitApple Snail Split

We notice the Pond has a healthy population of native Apple Snails, this one crossing the sand near our launch site.

Cormorant Wing-dryingCormorant Wing-drying

No apple-snail-eating limpkins, but an abundance of wading birds and other fishers, like this cormorant.

Green Heron Lands a MealGreen Heron Lands a Meal We spend a long time watching (and photographing) the green herons fishing.  We all have lots of luck!

Dawn Egg LayerDawn Egg Layer

We also have the fine luck to find an apple snail laying her eggs before sunrise.  Standing in chest-deep cold water, juggling flash in one hand, camera in the other, we take turns shooting as the sun comes up. What a way to wake up! Luckily we drop nothing in the water... although the snail dropped within minutes after we finished.  I guess she was finished as well.

Misty Cypress DawnMisty Cypress Dawn

The early light brings out the glory of the Mill Pond cypress.

Mill Pond SunriseMill Pond Sunrise Cypress CurtainsCypress Curtains

Spanish Moss Curtains

Silver Pond CypressSilver Pond Cypress

Silvery Pond Cypress

Mill Pond Black & WhiteMill Pond Black & White

Sentinal Snag

Spanish Moss CurtainSpanish Moss Curtain Buttress BeautyButtress Beauty

Buttress Beauty

Perhaps our favorite spring was Hole in the Wall. Not only was there a twin cave above water, but the spring is a lovely cave below, from which pours a strong pulse of Florida's life blood.  We spent hours here planning for our next visit: to make a lit up night shot of this scene... (Which we did in August!  I am still fine-tuning the image, and since it took 9 hours to shoot, it has it's own story. So, maybe in next month's post, I'll share it.)

Hole in the Wall SpringHole in the Wall Spring

Hole in the Wall Spring

Hole in the Wall Spring from WithinHole in the Wall Spring from Within

Here's Hole in the Wall Spring from just inside the cavern.  

We visited two other springs in the Mill Pond during our short trip: Indian Washtub, which apparently can be hard to find at times.  And Gator Hole Spring, which we couldn't find until a kind local fisherwoman graciously led us right to it. Most downstream from Blue, and slower current, there was a large mat of duckweed shrouding the Gator Hole vent, which flows from a large crack in the wall.

Indian Washtub Spring.

Oakleaf Hydrangea drapes the intimate entrance of Gator Hole.

So, what do you think?  A pretty magnificent discovery, no? North Florida still has some amazing natural beauty despite the destructive efforts of the state's Powers-That-Be. Thanks for joining me on this little adventure. My hold-out shot for next month is a winner. Stay tuned.

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Comments

67.GENE MCKENZIE(non-registered)
MERRITTS MILL POND WAS OUR 4TH OF JULY PLACE TO GO. I CAN WELL REMEMBER THE PICNIC LUNCH AND THE ICE COLD WATERMELON AND THE ICE COLD WATER IN THE SPRING. FOR TOO MANY YEARS THIS PRISTINE HEAVEN WAS A BEST KELP SECRET. I HAVE BEEN SWIMMING IN THE SPRING (BOY, WAS IT COLD) AND FISHING IN THE LAKE. THIS WAS THE CLEAREST AND CLEANEST WATER I HAVE EVER SEEN. THE FISH FROM THE POND TASTE LIKE NO OTHER. HOPEFULLY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS (MORE THAN 60), THIS IS STILL A PLACE TO VISIT. THIS IS A GREAT PLACE TO MAKE MEMORIES. GENE MCKENZIE
66.Nell Pittman Thomas(non-registered)
I grew up here and you have done an excellent job to bring out the beauty. Remember the blue hole? Water was always so cold. Thanks for the fond memories.
65.Sue Taylor(non-registered)
Awesome!!!!! God's creations....Thank you for the pictures
64.Margo Devane(non-registered)
Blue Springs brings back great memories as a teenager. Beautiful pictures.
63.Aletta Shutes(non-registered)
I have a townhouse on Merritt'sMillpond and love going there. I grew up there and learned to swim at the millpond. David, if you ever need a place to stay when you are there let me know. Love the beauty that you capture in every picture.
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