The last time I was there, as a kid, it was in the middle of nowhere. Today, it is surrounded, right up to the Park Service boundary fence, by cookie cutter homes on tiny lots.
Back then, it was a place of glass bottom boats, ornamental gardens, classic preMouse roadside zoo, and the usual restaurant/gift shop.
My Mom said they had to drive across a cow pasture to get to it. I have great memories of that day, mostly pictures in my mind of peering out the glass windows of the tour boats in complete, awestruck wonder.
I was a fish lover even then and it was paradise ... I'm sure my nose prints were permanently etched into the tourboat windows.What was once a private preDisney attraction is now a state park. This has also happened to Homosassa Springs and WeekiWachee Springs.
These springs and surrounding land are so valuable to the health of the rivers they feed, and therefore the Gulf estuaries, and therefore the Gulf, and therefore the Ocean, and therefore the planet, ... that we can't afford to let them go on the market and become golf subdivisions. So we pony up tax dollars to protect them for our grandchildren and beyond.
Those are bailouts I can live with.
You don't get downhill vistas like this much in Florida. Much of these mounds are from early phosphate mining operations.
The picture above shows an area of sand boils, which are mini springs with just enough flow to keep the sand moving, but not enough to scour it away.
Here is a formation of bluegills hovering over a few sand boils.
Their wingman (wingfish?) leads the way.
Of course, if you are a bluegill or any other small fish, you need to avoid the Grèbe à bec bigarré. The crystal clear water of the spring must make it challenging for the fish and crawfish to hide from this bird.
This sign is standard issue at Florida state parks where swimming occurs. It's more of a, "Well, we warned you" lawyer induced liability prophylactic than actual danger.
Most of the gator attacks in Florida take place outside of parks. Swimming areas in parks are so busy that any sensible gator stays away during the day... usually.
Above is a little video ... under a minute of the sand boils. The voices you hear are just other park visitors walking by as I filmed.
This one is shorter and more interesting than yesterday's "MAN vs. PALM FRONDS" video, so give it a go.
Tomorrow on PF: Well, I'm not really sure, but something usually happens.