When you say "Ichetucknee," most Floridians think of the legendary state park in north Florida where an estimated 200,000 recreational tubers flock annually for a tranquil float down the river of the same name. But did you know the largest freshwater boil to feed the river is not the park's namesake Ichetucknee Spring?
A nearby sister spring called Blue Hole actually earns that distinction, dispersing an incredible 67 million gallons of water a day from the Florida aquifer. Tucked away about a 1/2 mile hike through the woods from the main spring, at the park's north entrance, Blue Hole is a stunning --and far less traveled-- geological treasure, surrounded by towering cypress trees and swamp scrub.
Known for it's remarkable visibility and a dramatic, 50-foot plummet from the surface to the bottom of the spring's underwater cave shaft, the remote Blue Hole is a photographer's paradise, particularly at dusk at the end of a quiet weekday -- which is when I had the spring to myself, experiencing a serene scene of crystalline water and schools of blue gill, sunfish and bass.
• Click here to see the photo gallery, from Blue Hole.
UPDATE 6/18/12: A reminder that the Florida Conservation Coalition is hosting a rally for Florida's springs and waterways at Silver River State Park, this Saturday, June 23, 2012, from 10am to 4pm. Featured speakers include renowned environmental photographer John Moran and former senators Bob Graham and Lee Constantine. For more details, click here.
Joe Burbank is a staff photographer for the Orlando Sentinel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the Sentinel photo staff on Twitter @OSPhoto. Like us on Facebook: Orlando Sentinel Photography.