One of the to-do’s on our 14 in 14 list is to visit at least 14 of Florida’s springs during the year. We agreed to only count “first time” spring visits so that Silver Springs, Blue Springs, and DeLeon Springs won’t be added to our official list. This insures we get out and see new places.
On the morning of January 1st, before we developed our 2014 list, we drove to Dunnellon to Rainbow Springs State Park and participated in a New Year’s Day first walk along the trails, but since that occurred before our 14 in 14 list, we decided to exclude it as one of the “first time” springs.
That decision elevated Fanning Springs to the first spring visit of the year. Our original plan to rent a kayak and paddle in the spring and the Swannee changed when we awoke to extremely cold temperatures. Donning long underwear and packing coats, scarves, and gloves we headed to Fanning Springs and were greeted by a sign stating the time 12:15 and temperature 40º.
Instead of paddling, we walked through the park and out to the Swanee River where we saw a couple of manatee swimming toward the spring in search of warm water and then struggled to eat our picnic lunch wearing mittens before leaving in search of a couple smaller springs.
At our next stop, Hart Springs, a Gilchrist County Park, we were surprised to find a family swimming in the spring. Sure they were wearing wet suits, and the water temperature remains 72º year round, but with the air temperature in the 40s, I can’t imagine going for a swim.
We continued to Otter Springs, another county park located a couple of miles away. The spring was not impressive, but the park’s located on the Swannee River with a campground, cabins, an indoor pool, and an impressive event center.
Otter Park may be a good base camp for a future Spring adventure.