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Santa Fe River Springs

The Santa Fe River of north-central Florida is fed by the flow from many springs: Ginnie, Poe, Hornsby, Lilly, Rum Island, and Gilchrist Blue, to name a few. In fact, during dry seasons, the collective spring flow can make up the majority of the water in the river.

The river itself originates in a headwater swamp, goes underground, and re-emerges (along with additional groundwater) at Santa Fe River Rise. The majority of the Santa Fe River springs are downstream of the river rise. Some of the springs are located within the lush floodplain forest of the river, while others are within the river itself or along the banks. Most of the spring runs are relatively short, with the exception of the Ichetucknee River. The Santa Fe River and spring basin is also characterized by numerous swallets, which remind us of the close interaction between surface water and groundwater in the region. In addition, caves and conduits are common in the basin (much to the delight of cave divers!).

Image of The clear, cool water of Ginnie Spring is enticing to swimmers, snorkelers, and divers.The clear, cool water of Ginnie Spring is enticing to swimmers, snorkelers, and divers. © Harley Means/DEP

Much of the land bordering the river and the springs is in a natural condition, with a number of public parks (River Rise Preserve State Park, O’leno State Park, and Poe Springs County Park) and privately run parks (such as Ginnie Springs Resort and Blue Springs). Most of the springs discharge clear blue water, which is a stark contrast with the darker, tannic water of the river. As a result, the limerock ledges, sandy bottom, and native eelgrass waving in the current can easily be seen in many of the spring runs. The Santa Fe River and spring runs are also home to a high diversity of freshwater turtles; the Suwannee Cooter is most often observed basking on logs along the shoreline. The springs within these parks and elsewhere on the river are popular recreation areas for swimming, tubing, paddling, boating, diving, snorkeling, and nature photography.

In spite of the predominantly natural conditions near the springs, the land use in the larger springshed has changed over the years from rural and light agriculture to more intensive agriculture and residential development.

In spite of the predominantly natural conditions near the springs, the spring water chemistry and biology is being degraded. The land use in the larger springshed that provides groundwater to the springs has changed over the years from rural and light agriculture to more intensive agriculture and residential development. The springs are discharging water that is increasing in nitrate levels and is not as clear as it once was. In fact, the lower Santa Fe River has been determined to be impaired. The major sources of nitrates in the springshed are fertilizer (from agricultural operations and increasing residential development) and human and animal wastes. In addition, there is evidence that the amount of water flowing in the springs and the river has decreased due to other competing uses.

Image of Large livestock farms can have a direct impact on both the quality and quantity of underground water. A single center-point irrigation system on a typical Florida farm may use over one million gallons of water per day.Zoom+ Large livestock farms can have a direct impact on both the quality and quantity of underground water. A single center-point irrigation system on a typical Florida farm may use over one million gallons of water per day. © Russell Sparkman

Given the importance of these springs to local residents, visitors, and native plants and animal communities, efforts are underway to protect and restore both the quality and quantity of water that discharges from these springs. The Suwannee River Water Management District is currently gathering data and developing models for the Minimum Flows and Levels (MFL) for these springs; the MFL is planned to be set in 2013. Concurrent with this process, the Department of Environmental Protection is working with stakeholders to develop a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) to correct the nitrate impairment in this portion of the Santa Fe River.

The BMAP will build on the efforts of the existing Santa Fe River Springs working group, coordinated by Alachua County and composed of local governments, businesses, and residents of the area. The participants in the working group have been active in identifying sources of nitrate pollution to the springs, impacts on the plant and animal life, and means of restoring the springs to their natural condition.


The Santa Fe Springs Basin Working Group is a public forum in which professionals, government entities, and citizens can learn about and discuss issues and activities that can affect the quality and quantity of water in Poe, Ginnie, Hornsby, and Gilchrist Blue Springs and their contributing areas in Alachua, Columbia, and Gilchrist Counties. SFRSBWG was founded in 1998 and is currently sponsored by Alachua County Environmental Protection Division.

For more information on meetings dates and times, email Stacie Greco.


*Springshed and Spring Recharge Area

This map shows the springsheds or spring recharge area where rainfall enters the ground and flows through the aquifer to several springs along the Santa Fe River. Pollutants from fertilizers and pesticides, faulty septic systems, animal wastes and stormwater runoff in the springshed can harm the quality of water in the aquifer, the source of our drinking water and water flowing from the springs.

Groundwater flows are dynamic, and the area covered by the springshed should not be interpreted as absolute or static, as the springshed may fluctuate due to groundwater withdrawals, drought, heavy precipitation or other factors. For more information about the springshed data, download the document below.

Download Springshed Data Qualification/ Disclaimer

Springshed Data Qualification/ Disclaimer - 10.3KB


Ginnie Springs, Poe Springs, and Gilchrist Blue Springs are just three of the many springs along the lower Santa Fe River.

Flash required to view: Images of springs along the Santa Fe River -

Images of springs along the Santa Fe River

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Ground Water and Springs Protection Section
Rick Hicks, PGAdministrator
Phone: (850) 245-5229
Email
Contact for springs information


Santa Fe River Springs Working Group
Stacie Greco, Alachua County Environmental Protection Department
Phone: (352) 264-6829
Email
Website
Contact for Information on working group and restoration activities


Middle & Lower Suwannee River and Santa Fe River Basin Management Action Plans
Terry Hansen, Basin Coordinator
Phone: (850) 245-8561
Email
Contact for: Information on TMDL and BMAP development and implementation


Agency stakeholders


Citizen Stakeholder and Watershed Organizations


Parks and Conservation Areas


Local Government and Water Resource Agencies

Find Related Info
Ginnie Springs, Poe Springs

 

Springs Events & Meetings 

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