O'Leno State Park and Wishing for a Healthier Santa Fe River

Wishbone Branch ©Lynne Buchanan
Recently I was fortunate enough to go to O'Leno State Park, where the Upper Santa Fe River descends underground before appearing again three miles later at River Rise.  It was a moderately overcast day, which was perfect for photographing in the woods.  The whole experience of hiking along the river was mystical, with the moving water, the cypress knees, and the gnarled branches with mosses and lichens abounding.  No wonder the State named it an Outstanding Florida Water in 1984.  When I saw this particular tree branch jutting over the water, it reminded me of a wishbone and I knew what wish I was making–that this beautiful rivers and all our rivers are cared for and preserved.

Roots Along the Riverbank © Lynne Buchanan
The water rushes along here until it reaches the River Sink.  This part of the river, until it goes underground, is part of the Upper Santa Fe.  This part of the river is described by the Florida Springs Institute a "black-water, acidic, soft water river because of direct runoff through poorly drained swamplands." One of the biggest threats facing this part of the river is reduced flow as a result of ground water pumping and diverting the water for usage in Southern Georgia and Northern Florida.  The Lower Santa Fe, which is spring-fed, is plagued by nitrate nitrogen from fertilizers, human and animal waste disposal practices, and storm water runoff.  The flow in the Lower Santa Fe has been reduced by an estimated 40 percent as well.  It is such a magical place and beautiful river and we depend on the rivers for our own health too.  Without adequate flow and appropriate clean water standards, the entire ecosystem, of which many forget we are a part, will suffer.

Ogden Lake ©Lynne Buchanan
O'Leno Lake ©Lynne Buchanan

The park contains several very interesting narrow lakes that look more like fingers.  The reflections of the trees and vegetation were lovely.  These lakes are directly linked to the aquifer below and fluctuate in response to groundwater levels.  As our aquifer is drained, these lakes will disappear more and more.

Approaching the River Sink ©Lynne Buchanan

Sink Pools ©Lynne Buchanan
Be sure to spend a day in this beautiful park the next time you are in North Florida and appreciate all it has to offer.  To ensure it's health and adequate flow levels, please visit these sites and contribute to their preservation efforts.