Florida has more freshwater springs than any other place in the world, with over 1000 springs at last count according to the United States Geological Survey.
The Ichetucknee Springs Group is part of this constellation of watery wonders, a first-magnitude spring complex composed of nine named springs that discharge into the Ichetucknee River. The Ichetucknee Head Spring, pictured above, was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971. Other springs in the system include: Blue Hole (the largest spring in the group); Cedar Head; Roaring Spring and Singing Spring (collectively referred to as Mission Springs); Devil’s Eye; Grassy Hole; Mill Pond; and Coffee Spring.
The springs along the Ichetucknee River, like all the freshwater springs in Florida, are like “canaries in a coal mine” because problems with the Floridan Aquifer—the source of both our springs and drinking water—show up first in the springs. Depending upon their elevation, springs may stop flowing if the aquifer declines by even a few feet. If too many nitrates enter a spring, that may result in algae growth that can damage water quality and harm the submerged aquatic vegetation that is the basis of the river system’s food chain.
As Outstanding Florida Waters with the highest level of water quality protection Florida offers, Ichetucknee Springs should be flourishing—yet water quality and flow are both declining as the result of human activity. Flow from the springs averaged 233 million gallons a day (mgd) in the early to mid-1900s, but has recently declined to approximately 174 mgd. Pollution has led to an increased cover of filamentous algae, reduced plant diversity and greater turbidity or darkening of the water.
Please see Issues for more information about what is affecting the springs and how we can help.
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: