St. Marks Spring/River Rise
Summary of Features
- Scale - 1st magnitude
- Scenery - fine
- How Pristine? - dock and cleared land near spring
- Swimming - very good, excellent snorkeling
- Protection - unknown
- Crowds - very small
- Access - only by boat; very strenuous
- Facilities - none
- Safety - good
- Scuba - yes
- Cost - free
Google Maps link at www.nwfwater.com/Water-Resources/Springs/Featured-Springs/St-Marks-Rise. From downtown Tallahassee, go south on Monroe Street, which becomes State Road 363 or Woodville Highway. Turn left on State Road 267. After four miles, turn left on U.S. 98 and proceed to point where the highway crosses the St. Marks River. A boat launch is on the NE side of the bridge. Put in boat and go 6+ miles upriver to the St. Marks Spring/river rise.
The spring is the primary river rise of the St. Marks River and also contains substantial flow from several nearby springs and upriver drainage. Water flows from beneath a large limestone shelf from a depth reported to be about 85 feet (Rosenau et al., 1977, p. 241-2). The spring pool is over 100 feet in diameter, and water flows from the spring around an island. Water in the pool was clear to about 18 feet on date of visit (May 2001) and blue-green in color. No boil was visible, and the spring looked like a bottomless pit with sunlight shafting into it.
Except for a partially cleared area above the spring, land around the spring is dense hardwood and floodplain forest. There is an old dock at the spring, but no other structures were visible. Along the edges of the basin and downstream of the spring, the St. Marks River is thick with eel grass, hydrilla, elodea, and other water plants. The area is abundant with fish, birds, and other wildlife. The spring flow—the fifth greatest on average of any Florida spring system, likely contains the water from the upper part of the St. Marks River as well as flow from both Horn and Natural Bridge Springs. It may also contain water from Rhodes and some of the other unnamed springs/sinks in the Natural Bridge area.
- The land around the spring is private property, and no landfall may be made. People with houses along the river paddle up to the spring to fish and swim.
- Upriver paddling from Newport can be very arduous when the current is fast, and when the water is low, there are several low rapids that require portage and/or pulling a motor out of the water. The spring is managed by the Northwest Florida Water Management District--website address: www.nwfwater.com/Water-Resources/Springs/Featured-Springs/St-Marks-Rise
As a single spring/flowpoint, St. Marks is one of the largest springs in Florida.
The authors had wanted to get to this spring for many years, but were not able to obtain permission from landowners who live near the spring basin until May 2001. The river's flow is fairly strong, so only canoeists with excellent strength and stamina can make the upriver trip from the public boat ramp at Newport.
- Horn Springs
- Indian Springs
- Natural Bridge Spring
- Newport (or Sulfur) Spring
- Rhodes Springs
- Wakulla Springs
- Unnamed St. Marks Sulfur Springs #1-3
- Other unnamed springs near Natural Bridge
Other Nearby Natural Features
- Leon County Sinks Park
- Wakulla Spring State Park
- St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
- Apalachicola National Forest
- Wacissa River/Slave Canal
- Econfina River State Park