Monday, May 21, 2012

Madison Blue Goats

Madison Blue Spring does not have goats, but this past Saturday did involve snorkeling and goats (and other farm animals like piglets, big pigs, turkeys, and chickens). And Madison Blue is also a 1st magnitude - #11 to be checked off my list! 
We started the day in Gainesville attempting to fill tanks at Water World, but despite the 9am opening time listed on their site, they do not open until 10. We instead decided to hit the road and put Plan B into action: stop at Amigos to get a fill along the way. But an hour and 30 minutes and many stories later, we were cruising down I-10 with an empty scuba tank... oops. But David being the super cave diver he is happened to have Plan C: stop at Cave Excursions to fill the tank. So we got off I-10 and instead of heading north towards Madison Blue, we adventured south for about 20 miles to find the little cave diving store basically run out of somebody's garage but fully equipped with cave supplies and a tank filling station. One tank fill and hot pink knife purchase later, we hit the back country roads again and headed north to Madison Blue. 
It is one of the more recent additions to the Florida State Park system and seemed to be quite the popular spot during the middle of a Saturday. A few brave wetsuit-less teenagers were swimming in the spring when we arrived and a whole slew of southerners dotted the riverbank to bathe in the warmer but tannic Withlacoochee River water. Upon arriving we also discovered that they do not allow open water divers or solo diving, so I couldn't dive sans cave certification (to be started soon!) and David couldn't go by himself, so we took out the masks and fins and hit the water for a snorkel - I guess it's easier to keep warm diving up and down anyway!

The spring water wasn't perfectly clear but it did have a beautiful blue color.  The much needed rain that came last week probably made it a bit more cloudy (that combined with the high nitrate levels and overgrowth of algae in the basin).

Picture of David from the cavern entrance about 25 feet down.

The water in the spring run appeared crystal clear as it flowed out to the river. It was quite shallow, making snorkeling in the current quite difficult but lots of fun in a wetsuit when you don't have to worry about being cut up by the rocks. 
Hanging on for dear life while trying to capture the water swiftly flowing over the rocks and out to the river.
David in action on the river bank :) The reverse of this photo is HERE.
After swimming out the spring run, there is a very distinct line where the spring water meets the Withlacoochee River. The river water is tannic (dark) and it's harder to see. It is also at least 10 degrees warmer so was a nice treat until you had to swim back into the spring run. The colors in the river are generally brownish green, but this little crack on the bottom stuck out because of its brilliant green color. There was no flow coming out of the crack but I assume there was in the past when there was more groundwater.

Drifting in the warm river water - there was some nice flow!
Looking out the spring run at the Withlacoochee River.
You can see where the tannic river meets the clear
spring water.
Floating in the river... part above water and part below. Beautiful day for a swim (as always...)

After a long snorkel in the spring and river and an interesting swim back up the shallow, swiftly moving spring run, we hit the road to visit K & A on their farm up near LaCrosse. This is me feeding on of their adorable little goats. We also played with huge turkeys, ducks, piglets, and a momma pig named "Christina Hogulara". We picked some blackberries and tomatoes and ate fresh organic vegetables that they had left over from their stash they brought to sell at the farmers market that morning. A perfect, refreshing snack after a great day :)

The rest of my pictures are in my album "Gills" on Facebook

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