The high dive platform, a local rite-of-passage at Wakulla Springs State park, still looms ominously over the blackened springs of Wakulla- well, ominously for me, but a source of giggling excitement for gaggles of teen girls and puffed out bravado of their male counter parts.
I just saw an old photo of that diving platform- and it was three levels high- now it is only two, but still as scary. I remember visiting Wakulla with my brother and father- I was a teenager then, and the springs, still icy cold as they are today, were crystal clear and full of kids jumping from the diving platform.
The three of us took a boat ride out into the springs, and the alligators lazing around were the biggest ones I had ever seen outside of Gatorland. I remember wondering what kind of crazy person would swim with gators, let alone dive anywhere near their vicinity.
This time I visited Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park with my own family. Though the waters were still icy, the springs were no longer crystalline, and there was not a gator in sight near the diving platform, still crammed with excited and nervous kids. My daughter begged to jump. I nervously agreed, some part of me thinking, yeah, when we get there she will change her mind, and another part of me thinking that maybe I should make the high jump with her. Long story short, after making triple sure there was not a gator around, I let her go to join the other kids and once again chickened out.
After her jump, she swam back in, eyes shining with the thrill, so excited and ready to do it all over again.
Wakulla Springs made for a great swimming break during our travels from the panhandle to back home. We often pop into State Parks during road trips for an hour or two- great for stretching out legs and releasing energy, be it for a hike or swim.
Swimming aside, we grabbed a hotdog lunch at the lodge cafeteria- there is a fancy restaurant in the lodge as well. Changing rooms are located by the swim area- a roped off section of the river – not deep- near the springs with the diving platform and two floating platforms to swim to. We also took the boat ride down the river ($8 adult and $5 kids) and saw the missing spring gator along with manatees and various other fish and wild fowl.
Know Before You Go
1. Wakulla Springs is a State Park- $6 per vehicle. You can camp there as well, but make reservations on line ahead of time.
2. Gonna dare the dive? Check the gator quotient first! There is a life guard on top of the platform for safety reasons.
3. There is also a brown water snake who loves the swimming area- he is not poisonous, according to the rangers, who will also tell you that all snakes can bite. Leave him be (the snake, I mean).
4. You are a captive audience in the park, so if you don’t fancy a ritzy meal in the lodge or the hot dog snack stand food, bring your own lunch. They have picnic tables.