Blog

Salt Springs

Salt Springs Rocks in the Late Afternoon Light

Salt Springs Rocks in the Late Afternoon Light

Salt Springs is one of the four springs in the Ocala National Forest and flows into Lake George, part of the St. Johns river system.  I found it the most fascinating.  The water comes from deep fissures that are underwater windows into the earth.  The water also has magnesium, potassium, and sodium salts, which is how it got its name.  No one is certain of the source of these salty waters, but some believe it is sea water.  Archeologists believe tribes once inhabited this region 5,800 years ago, and it is still a popular campsite.

Fissures, Salt Springs

Fissures, Salt Springs

It was fascinating to swim along the fissures, and the colors of the chemicals in the water turned the rocks interesting colors.

Hydrilla, Salt Springs

Hydrilla, Salt Springs

Native grasses were not evident but invasive hydrilla was instead.  I was with springs artist Margaret Tolbert, who has been swimming in and inspired by springs for twenty years and she told me that she no longer objects to hydrilla as much as she used to since fish do feed on it and it provides some structure for sea life on the floor of the springs.

Salt Springs, Underwater Stepping Stones

Salt Springs, Underwater Stepping Stones

Viewed rom land, the rocks in the springs looked like stepping stones.  The water was clear blue and I could see one of the largest vents bubbling up.  It was so visually interesting.  Though the hyrdrilla was present, it was mostly on the rocks around the edge of the springs which are rimmed in concrete to make access easier for visitors.

The Many Layers of Salt Springs

The Many Layers of Salt Springs

From another vantage point and when the light changed and it became sunnier, the reflections from the trees and clouds added to the layered intrigue of this special spot.

Algae in Salt Springs

Algae in Salt Springs

The area where we had been swimming was filled with clear blue water, but when I looked across to the forested bank, away from where the volume of water was spewing forth, I noticed a lot of algae mats along the shoreline.  

Algae Close Up, Salt Springs

Algae Close Up, Salt Springs

I walked over to that side of the park and noticed there was in fact thick algae, as these images show.  I was glad I hadn't swum near there.  I wasn't sure of the level of toxicity, but I knew it was blocking the light below and probably making it difficult for any natural vegetation to grow.

Algae Carpet, Salt Springs

Algae Carpet, Salt Springs

There are no nitrates in the forest springs and dissolved oxygen is still present, but still we see this algae explosion (see the green slime section in: http://stateofwater.org/ecosystems/springs/).  On theory is that the algae crowds out native grasses and then multiplies itself.  As in any body of water I have visited, the algae is found where the water is most sandy.  It was interesting to see this much cyanobacteria in water with such high salinity levels and so curiosity led me to do some research.  I found that cyanobacteria is predicted to get a lot worse in coming years due to increased temperatures (which I already knew) and because certain strains of cyanobacteria which used to be killed off by salinity are becoming adaptive and are managing to still live and in fact thrive.  Here's the link to the scientific journal: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2386806/