Wednesday, May 9, 2012

#10 Silver Glen Spring

The brilliant turquoise water was the first thing that struck me about Silver Glen Spring. Like Juniper and Alexander Springs, Silver Glen is nestled in the Ocala National Forest. It is northwest of the other two and feeds directly into Lake George. We arrived early, cameras, masks, and fins in hand. No SCUBA diving is allowed in the spring... even cave diving for advanced divers is prohibited. In the main spring basin, there are two small vents with decent flow and off to the side, there is another cave entrance but its smaller basin is roped off and has a sign that tells you to keep out. Apparently the cave system was last mapped by a team of experienced cave divers in 1992 but has not been entered since then.
This is the first view of the spring when we stepped in the water. We arrived early enough to beat the crowds and there were only a few other snorkelers when we first got in. The main spring basin is to the right and you can barely make out the faint outline of the little orange buoys blocking off part of the spring on the left.

The main spring basin is about 20 feet deep. To my left, you can see part of the massive school of striped bass that  hang out in the basin. Hundreds of them congregate in this one area and move in a fluid-like motion, encircling you when you make your way into the middle of their school. Some fish would break off from the school and swim down to play in the flow of the spring and others were rubbing their sides on the sand in the shallower water in a flip-flopping motion. This photo of me is by David :)

There was significantly less algae than nearby Alexander Spring, which has the highest nitrate levels of the springs. Unfortunately there is still quite a bit of algae, signifying a fair amount of human pollution and runoff. Despite its implications, the way it flows and the colors it creates are somehow still beautiful 

Another amazing photo by David. The striped bass school has completely engulfed me as I try to float motionless and calm to take some close-up pictures at the surface.

Close-up encounter with a catfish. He was so unfazed by me that he didn't move while I shot from practically every angle. I haven't seen one this close and out in the open before... usually they like to hide in the caverns or dark spots under stairs.

Didn't notice the little rainbow when I was taking the picture but it is a beautiful surprise. This is my favorite kind of shot... still working to perfect it but it's so much fun to try to get it just at the right second so that you can see the above and under water parts of the world in the same frame.

Another 1/2 and 1/2 picture showing the closed off part of the spring. Bummer.

After a long morning snorkel and a quick warm up in the sun (very quick since it was 90+ degrees and sunny by the time we got out of the water), we adventured down the Sand Boils Trail. The trail winds through the woods for about a quarter mile and ends on a boardwalk at these mini sand boils in water that is only inches deep. They remind me of witches brew just like the little sand boils in the bottom of the Rainbow River. Other than that, the only other place I have seen these so far is at Three Sisters Springs down in Crystal River. They look like little volcanos and up close, depending on the strength of the water flowing out of each one, neat rings of sand patterns can form around where the water is bubbling. Because they are actual holes in the ground and you could potentially step in one and be up to your waist instantly, you are not allowed to even wade in the water. And you will be kicked out if you go over the fence to take a closer look. Instead, we stuck the gopro camera over the edge and got some up-close footage.

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