Ichetucknee Springs: Beauty and Despair

Ichetucknee Impressionism © Lynne Buchanan
This past weekend I spent swimming at Blue Springs and Kayaking on the Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers.  With all the rain we have had lately, the springs along the Santa Fe were not as clear as usual because of all the flooding.  The river was at 24.2 feet and had overrun its banks and was infiltrating the springs.  The photographs in this post are all from my trip along the Ichetucknee which is a separate entity.

The river is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and it always inspires me with its clear waters and grasses and the way reflections intersperse with actual reality beneath the surface of the water.  It is like being aware in multiple dimensions simultaneously and expands my consciousness and my perception.  

 The Source of the Ichetucknee ©Lynne Buchanan
First, I paddled up to the source of the springs, stopping just before the restricted area.  The water was beautiful clear shades of blue.  I felt like I was in some Eden-like environment.  It was so beautiful and peaceful and filled me with hope for our planet.  Perhaps, if we stop destroying the environment, these magical springs could regenerate.

Greenery Above and Below ©Lynne Buchanan
In this northernmost part of the river, the trees and grasses, both above and below the water appeared healthy and they most certainly were flourishing.  This incredible verdancy was a feast for my eyes and was no doubt producing oxygen and cleansing the soil and air.  Places like the Ichetucknee are not just recreational places for kayakers or tubers, they are life giving and if they die, it is because the qualities of our water has been destroyed and we will suffer too.  These springs are the source of our water, they are the veins that give us life.

Ichetuckneee Explosion of Life ©Lynne Buchanan
I was so happy to see the springs teeming with life.  The grasses appeared green and healthy and the water was beautiful and clear.  If we destroy such a place, it will be one of the most horrendous crimes I can imagine.  There was once a whole network of springs throughout Florida.  Now only the ones north of Tampa survive and many of them are dying.  Our Governor pretends to be doing something, but he is not.  He is giving money to agriculture, utilities, and industry to do what they should already be paying for out of their exorbitant profits.  He is not in fact allocating much money at all to clean up the springs.  The Ichetucknee is fortunate in its northernmost part and there are many people who advocate for its continued survival.  However, even it suffers further downstream.

Red Algae Near the Devil's Eye Spring ©Lynne Buchanan
Some of our group stopped to swim at the Devil's Eye Spring along the river.  I decided to paddle around the corner, to where someone told me there was another small spring coming from a rock.  Just before I reached it, I saw this site and it made me want to cry.  It looked like I remembered toxic waste dumps in New Jersey looking like.  I have heard that there has been a wonderful restoration project in the Meadowlands, so even Toxic waste dumps can be turned around.  Let us do this for our springs, before it becomes too late.

Underwater Near the Devil's Eye Spring ©Lynne Buchanan
Right before I got to the main spring, I saw this sight.  It was in the same area as where freshwater was entering the river, yet there was horrible lyngbya dark green mats stuck on all the old tree branches.  It looked like some weird inferno, and was eery and frightening.  My heart sank.  I had no desire to swim in the water here.  I just put my underwater camera in and took pictures.  This is not something I want to see, but I cannot close my eyes to it any longer.  It will take a grassroots movement to wake politicians, the agribusiness, developers, and other business interests up.  It must be done.  This is an unforgivable crime to Gaia.

Immature Ibises Watching ©Lynne Buchanan
A little further on, I came across a beautiful pair of immature ibises.  The current was stronger than I anticipated and brought me closer to them than I would have liked, but they were not afraid.  I talked to them for awhile and told them how sorry I was for what was happening to their river.

Why? ©Lynne Buchanan
They looked at me quizzically, as if to ask "Why?"  I told them I didn't have an answer.  There was not good explanation for this.  Beauty and life should be preserved and valued.  People should understand that the springs are connected to our water supply and that we are connected with the birds and the trees and the water.  It is a web of life.  That is how we survive–through the interdependence of our ecosystems, not from dumping phosphates and sewage and coal ash into our rivers.

Help! ©Lynne Buchanan
Though these turtles appeared to be lazing on a log to warm up from the cool temperatures of the springs on a nice summer afternoon, I also noted the algae on their shells and couldn't help but think as the water quality declines they must suffer too.

For all these creatures, for this beautiful, primitive, once pure and pristine place, let us come together and demand action.  The springs and the rivers are our lifeline.  Remember that...