If the Winchester Boys Came to Florida…
If ever the Winchester boys came to Florida, Salt Springs is where they would go. The natural spring in the Ocala National Forest combines all of the criteria for a perfect episode of Supernatural. There’s a salt spring, one of the spring vents is actually in the shape of a cross (or bird- depending on your view point), and there’s a creepy house too. Just add some other Supernatural elements and voila- perfect story.
Believe it or not, this was the conversation my daughter and I had during our visit to this unique recreation area in Marion County. She’s a big Sam & Dean fan- and of course, dutifully informed me that there was one episode set in Florida- (the ‘Groundhog Day’ one).
But why were we discussing the Winchester boys on a spring hunting outing?
Because when you make a new subject or place ‘relatable’ it’s a good way to introduce your kids to that place/subject. (That’s your parenting tip for the day 😉 This works for adults too.
We had spent the day swimming in other springs in the Ocala National Forest, and Salt Springs was the last on the list. I must confess, compared to blue expanse of Silver Glen and the inviting Alexander Springs, Salt Springs is not the prettiest swimming hole around. There’s a brightly painted retaining wall around the springs, with concrete paths, patches of neatly cut grass and steps leading into the water. But the beauty of this 2nd magnitude spring lies beneath the surface.
Beneath the Water at Salt Springs
With snorkels and masks, we pushed off from the steps and into a bizarre underwater world.
If you’ve ever seen fallen ruins of Greece or Rome- temples in disarray and dust, this is what the world beneath the surface (in my opinion) in Salt Springs looks like- rows of limestone rocks along the bed of the floor- as if an earthquake had tumbled a great town and time took over. My son said it was more like dinosaur bones. The rocks were bleached white by the sun & salt, but overgrown with a green moss.
I chased a group of fish down one alleyway through the rocks and they evaded my camera, swimming off down another alley. A kid in flippers and mask appeared seemingly out of nowhere and shot past me. It was a giant underwater playground of holes, rocks, cracks and fissures.
The Deep Hole
A group of kids stood on the slippery rocks around one of the spring vents- which resembled a giant well. The bravest dove into the opening and shot back up immediately. Everyone laughed.
“You can’t get very far down- the water pushes you back out,” one girl told us.
The kids compared diving techniques and strategies to out-do the spring’s water pressure as my son tried his hand at the dive. He bobbed back up immediately, as all the other kids did, with a surprised look on his face. “That water’s strong.”
I just smiled, knowingly. This 2nd magnitude spring pushes about 55 million gallons of water daily out of 4 vents. That’s a lot of pressure to fight against. One of the vents was supposedly 36 feet deep- and I suspected that was the one the kids were enjoying with their diving game. Sometimes there’s no winning against mother nature 😉
Is Salt Springs a Salt Water Spring?
A quick lick to your lips after swimming around the spring will tell you that Salt Springs is not really salt water. A high concentration of potassium, magnesium and yes, sodium, give this mineral rich spring it’s slight salinity, but it does not have the high salt amounts you’d find in the ocean, or even the Gulf waters.
Though despite not having a secret tunnel to the Atlantic, blue crabs can be found in this spring, a throw-back to when Florida was underwater millions of years ago.
Salt Springs is an enjoyable swimming hole, but in order to see the spring vents, you need to be able to swim. When we visited, the water levels were high and it was a swim to reach the rocks and vents. Wear a mask and snorkel to enjoy this spring or bring a swim noodle or tube and float around the mineral rich waters at the swimming area.
The swimming area is roped off and beyond that is Salt Run, a 5 mile waterway to Lake George. You can access it through the paddle launch in the Salt Springs Recreation Area or the boat launch at the Salt Springs Marina.
There are picnic tables and plenty of grassy places to enjoy a picnic lunch at this recreation area. Be sure to pack up your food and store it in your vehicle before/after you eat and dispose of garbage in the bear-proof trash cans to avoid inadvertently feeding the local wildlife.
And although my daughter was not as fond of Salt Springs as the last spring, she still remembers it best…because of our Winchester boys conversation. And that creepy house onsite? It’s the historic Morgan-Townsend House, with wrap-around porches and a brick chimney. It was built in the late 19th century and is now listed on the National Historic Registry. Perfect Supernatural setting? Most definitely 😉 With salt included.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Salt Springs Recreation Area is located in the Ocala National Forest at Fort McCoy, Florida
- Fees: $6.50 per person
- It’s a sunny spring. Bring sun screen/cover protection
- Bring a swim mask & snorkel to best explore this spring
- Salt Springs Run
- Alexander Springs
- Paddling Juniper Run
- The Wild Life: Paddling Florida’s Silver River