It’s been happening for thousands of years here in North Florida: From the blackness of the underground Floridan Aquifer, clear, cool water bubbles up from limestone into sunlit springs to create a pristine river that winds through almost six miles of wooded landscape.
For many of those years—from the time of Florida’s first inhabitants to the people who come to swim, float or be baptized in its waters today—the Ichetucknee River System has been a vital part of the life of the communities that surround it.
The Ichetucknee also supports a complicated web of life that depends on a healthy and vigorous community of aquatic plants. Here are more than 170 species of birds; 31 species of fish; a variety of turtles; mammals such as otters, beavers, and sometimes manatees; and reptiles, amphibians and insects too numerous to count.
The value of the Ichetucknee to Floridians is hard but not impossible to quantify. Consider the ecosystem services that the river and springs provide: production and maintenance of fish and wildlife populations, water purification, temperature stabilization, maintenance of the aquifer, and wetlands contribution to rainfall. All these services can be quantified by the relatively new discipline of resource economics, but this assessment has not yet been done for the Ichetucknee.
A traditional economic impact study conducted in 2003 found that the total estimated spending by visitors to Ichetucknee Springs State Park was approximately $23 million per year, or $34 per visitor. That spending accounted for over $5 million in wages and salaries and supported 311 local jobs.*
The value of the Ichetucknee to its surrounding communities cannot be overestimated, but if we are not careful we could lose both the springs and the river, where water quality and quantity are both declining; see Problems.
We in the Alliance find it unacceptable that after enriching and sustaining life for thousands of years and after being designated as an Outstanding Florida Water, the Ichetucknee River System might be lost on our watch. We pledge to work together to restore the river and springs to health, then to preserve and protect them for future generations of people and animals; see Solutions.
We invite you to explore our site, to educate yourselves about the threats to the Ichetucknee and potential solutions for its problems and, if you are so inclined, to join us in our work.
Note: Author and river guide Lars Andersen has written a very detailed, accurate and lyrical description of the Ichetucknee River System that you may explore beginning at:
*Economic Impact of Selected Florida Springs on Surrounding Local Areas, Mark A. Bonn and Frederick W. Bell for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Division of State Lands Florida Springs Task Force, April 10, 2003.