Saturday, March 17, 2012

We Have Arrived

It took a while to get here, but we finally arrived at Juniper Springs, one of many phenomenal fresh water springs in central Florida. This was our first stop in a short tour of the major springs in the region. The area offers some of the best snorkeling opportunities in the country and I looked forward to seeing and photographing life I don’t see in my usual east coast creeks.

Jupiter is clear and about 20 foot deep. It is fed by a spring that bubbles 72 degree water from a fissure at the bottom of the pool. I grabbed my snorkeling gear as soon as I arrived before camp or anything else was set up. Priorities.

Immediately I was in another world. Not really a different sensation for me when I snorkel. Even streams I have been in hundreds of times are new on each trip. But I can usually identify most of the players in those ecosystems within a few minutes. Here, almost everything is alien and unidentifiable to me.

Juniper is more developed than other springs and a concrete ledge and wall lines the spring bowl. In some ways it looks more like a swimming pool than a spring. But the fish don’t care, and an assortment of eastern mosquito fish, and melanistic eastern mosquito fish hang on the artificial ledge. Hundreds of fish congregate at the edge of sand flat and grass beds. I surface dive to the bottom 6 feet below and swim through the schools. I played in the pool until I shivered. I will return tomorrow, with a wetsuit and more time to learn more about Juniper, and the other springs in this amazing region. I can’t wait to explore with more time and intent. Can’t wait to see what lies in other springs. Can’t wait to discover the miracle of Florida’s freshwater life.

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