Springs Fever: A Field & Recreation Guide to 500 Florida Springs.
3rd Edition by Joe Follman and Richard Buchanan

Wakulla Springs

Wakulla County

Summary of Features

  • Scale - 1st magnitude
  • Scenery - excellent
  • How Pristine? - developed beach/recreation area on one side, structures above spring, beach area, dive/observation tower, dock area and boats; elevated nitrate levels and exotic plants in water
  • Swimming - fine, excellent snorkeling
  • Protection - excellent
  • Wildlife - excellent
  • Crowds - can be very heavy on warm weekends
  • Access - excellent
  • Facilities: excellent
  • Safety - excellent
  • Scuba - no
  • Cost--$6 per car; boat rides extra ($8 for adults and $5 for children age 3-12)

Quick Directions

Address: 465 Wakulla Park Drive, Wakulla Springs, FL 32327. One block east of intersection of State Roads 61 and 267 in Wakulla Springs State Park about 30 minutes' drive south of Tallahassee.

Full Directions

From downtown Tallahassee, drive south on South Adams until it becomes Crawfordville Highway (US 319 South). Continue past Capital Circle until the road forks to the left and forms Wakulla Springs Road (State Road 61). Take this left fork. Continue on through portions of the Apalachicola National Forest until you come to State Road 267. Turn left for a few hundred feet and then right into the entrance of Wakulla Springs State Park.

Spring Description

Wakulla Spring is one of the world's deepest springs and one of Florida's largest individual springs in terms of average flow.  In terms of flow from a single clear-water spring, perhaps only Silver Springs is larger.  The spring forms the Wakulla River, which flows for three miles within the state park, a few miles further before joining the St. Marks River and ultimately (after 12 miles) into the Gulf of Mexico.  The spring basin covers several acres and is framed by cypress, maples, palms, and other mature trees.  Sally Ward Creek joins the Wakulla run on the north side and also includes the small flow from Indian Springs.

According to Rosenau et al. (1977, p. 418), Wakulla has the greatest recorded flow ever for a single spring (1,910 ft3/sec - or about 1.23 billion gallons - one day in 1974).  Its flow has also been as low as 25 ft3/sec, giving Wakulla the distinction of also having the greatest range of recorded flow of any spring in the world.

A vast and extensively explored cave system feeds the spring.  Underwater or from the air, the basin resembles a giant funnel or water-filled meteor impact.  A two-level concrete dive tower is constructed over a ledge above the cave entrance.  A roped-off area allows swimmers to jump off the platform and swim down or over to the edge of the ledge, which is about 22 feet deep.  The ledge curves around part of the basin, framing the enormous funnel.  The basin below the ledge is 125 feet deep, and it is a total of 285 feet down to the bottom and the entrances to the main conduits that feed the spring.

According to Chalette et al. (2003), the water flowing out of Wakulla Springs is mostly deep-aquifer water, as opposed to water that has recently fallen as rain and been absorbed in a surficial aquifer.  During dry perionds, nearly 100% of the spring's flow originates from the Floridan Aquifer.  During rainy periods, up to 20% of the flow originates from surface water or shallow aquifer water.  Further testing shows that the "apparent" age of water discharged at Wakulla Springs is 39 years (p. 7).

Water clarity is variable, from very clear to dark to the hue of Mountin’ Dew.  Park officials note that while there is not an accepted explanation for the times the water is murky, the trend has been a decrease over time in the number of days each year that the spring is clear.  The water tends to be cloudy after heavy rain and is slow to clear.  There is abundant wildlife in the spring and its run.  There is also invasive exotic hydrilla in the spring.  This invader, first observed in 1997, now covers much of the swim area unless it is treated with an herbicide.  Algae is also growing more rapidly in the spring, the result (it is suspected) of higher levels of nitrate in the water (Hartnett, 2000).  In April 2002, park official released 1,750 gallons of the herbicide endothall into the spring area.  This treatment killed the hydrilla in the spring area and for a couple of miles downstream.


Local Springiana

Personal Impressions

Wakulla is one of the best places there is to go swimming or just hang out.  It is a very workable combination/juxtaposition of wildlife and development.  The main threats to the area are high nitrate levels in the water, increasing development (a suspected cause of rising nitrate levels) and invasive exotic plants that  impact the spring and its watershed. The National Geographic mapping project was one step to identify just where all the water is from and how to protect it.

Nearby Springs:

Other Nearby Natural Features

Contact Information

Wakulla Springs State Park
465 Wakulla Park Drive
Wakulla Springs, FL 32327-0390
Website: www.floridastateparks.org/park/Wakulla-Springs