Florida is well known for its palm trees, sandy beaches and salt water, but most visitors have no idea the Sunshine States also sits atop a vast hidden ocean of fresh water.
The peninsula named for its lush vegetation was once a limestone and dolomite seabed, formed from the calcium-rich exoskeletons of microscopic sea creatures. Eons of erosion have left the land riddled with a subterranean network of tunnels, caverns, rivers and lakes known as the Floridan Aquifer.
The aquifer spans 100,000 square miles and underlies the entire state of Florida along with parts of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina. In areas where it runs near the surface, underground water may find an opening in the bedrock and bubble up as a freshwater spring.
Springs are classified according to how fast water flows out of them. Florida has over 700 documented springs, and of the 78 most robust (magnitude one) springs in the US, 27 are found here.
Many of Florida’s larger springs have been developed into recreation areas where visitors can picnic, float, paddle, snorkel, swim and hike. Happily for visitors to Orlando, eight of these springs are located within a 90-minute drive, making them perfect for unforgettable day trips. Theme parks and shopping malls can wait — nature is calling!
The following springs are listed in order of increasing distance from Orlando. Clicking the park name will take you to the official website for more information, and selecting “More options” will open the map. Please note, springs may be affected by drought, pollution and human exploitation. It’s a good idea to check conditions before heading out.