During our New Year’s trip to Florida, we decided to venture up North on one of the cooler days when we couldn’t go shark-diving. We left West Palm at 3:45 am and began our 4-hour journey to High Springs located about an hour and a half southwest of Jacksonville. The town features both Ginnie Springs and Poe Springs, as well as several other campgrounds and parks backing onto the spring systems in the area.
When we left West Palm Beach the temperature was about 40-degrees Fahrenheit and as we traveled further north the temperature crept down towards the 30-degree mark, despite the morning beginning to rise in the sky. As we rolled into the town of High Springs, everything was still covered with frost and the air reached below freezing temperatures.
This boded well for us. The park was empty, meaning we had the springs to ourselves. We checked in at their main building which offered food, drinks, and all of the toys anyone would need for a day at the springs including rafts, dive equipment, volleyballs, and various merchandise. Daily admission to the park is about $14 and will last you until half an hour before sunset. A lot of folks take the option to camp out at the springs and if you have the time I’d definitely recommend spending a few days here!
After meandering through the campground style park, we settled at the Devil Spring System, one of the 5 spring systems located at Ginnie Springs. Many people thought we were crazy to venture north on a record cold day in Florida, but the truth is, the Springs were the perfect place to be on such a frigid day. The spring’s water is 72˚F year round and that was all we needed to make braving the cold air worthwhile.
The hard part was stripping out of our warm clothes in the outdoor showers to squeeze into our wetsuits. Anyone who has put on a wetsuit knows that they are not easy to put on without some sort of lubrication. We came prepared, but the brisk air did not help when we had to baste ourselves with a water/conditioner lubricant and try to wiggle our way into our suits. Long story short, we managed. And once we were suited up we wasted no time sprinting from the bathroom right to the long-awaited warm water springs.The water was incredible. It was steaming from the warm water mixing with the cold air, the morning sun dancing off the surface made it look even more picturesque, and the water itself was still and crystal clear. We hopped in, letting the water thaw our frigid bodies for a few minutes, and then got our gear on and began exploring. We spent over two hours practicing diving into one of the many holes that make up the spring system and admiring the “visibility forever” that Ginnie proudly boasts. We also saw many scuba divers going into the intricate cave system that the springs house and practicing using a variety of technical equipment. Scuba divers are welcome at Ginnie Springs, but you must sign in at the front desk and hold a recognized scuba certification. You can’t dive alone, so make sure to bring a buddy, and you won’t be able to enter the caves unless you’re a certified cave diver.
Though a bit of a road trip if you’re coming from South Florida, visiting the Springs is an absolute must. It’s the clearest water that I’ve ever seen and the warm temperature of the water makes it a fun adventure year round. If your schedule permits, try visiting during the week when it’s less likely to be crowded with tourists or students taking a weekend trip from the University of Florida. And of course, try to be there right when the park opens at 8 am. I promise after spending your morning in the springs you’ll instantly become a happier morning person.