Wakulla Springs as it empties into the Wakulla River
|Depth||350 ft (110 m)|
|Length||31.99 mi (51.48 km)|
|Difficulty||Advanced cave diving|
|Cave survey||Woodville Karst Plain Project|
Wakulla Springs is located 14 miles (23 km) south of Tallahassee, Florida and 5 miles (8.0 km) east of Crawfordville in Wakulla County, Florida at the crossroads of State Road 61 and State Road 267. It is protected in the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park.
It is classified as a first magnitude spring and a major exposure point for the Floridan Aquifer. The spring forms the Wakulla River which flows 9 miles (14 km) to the southeast where it joins the St. Mark's River. After a short 5 miles (8.0 km) the St. Mark's empties into the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachee Bay.
History and discovery
Scientific interest in the spring began in 1850, when Sarah Smith reported seeing the bones of an ancient mastodon on the bottom. Since that time, scientists have identified the remains of at least nine other extinct mammals that date to the last glacial period, deposited as far as 1,200 feet (360 m) back into a cave. Today, at a depth of about 190 feet (58 m), the fossilized remains of mastodons are in full view along with other fossils.
The Florida Geological Survey (FGS) commissioned their first study in August and September 1930 with geologist Herman Gunter. Gunter's work focused on the recovery of fossils found in the spring basin. He utilized hard hat diving techniques, a dredge, and "long-handled grappling tongs". A mastodon recovered from their work is now on display at the Museum of Florida History.
The FGS conducted additional studies at Wakulla Springs in 1955, 1956, and 1962 under the direction of vertebrate paleontologist, Stanley J. Olsen. Olsen's team of six divers from Florida State University discovered animal fossils deeper within the spring complex where they also found archaeological evidence of early humans, including bone and stone tools. Ultimately, the presumed behavioral association among the recovered cultural and fossil materials could not be demonstrated unequivocally because of the difficulty of establishing and maintaining provenience control in a submerged spring-vent context.
A major further exploration of Wakulla Springs was conducted in October–December 1987 by an expedition led by Dr. Bill Stone. The expedition team, which also included Sheck Exley and Wesley C. Skiles, penetrated the cave system to a distance of 4,160 feet (1,270 m) from the cave entrance. Skiles filmed the expedition for a National Geographic special. During the expedition Stone's Cis-Lunar Mk-1 rebreather was demonstrated in a 24-hour dive which used only half of the system's capacity. In 1998-1999, Stone directed an international group of explorers consisting of over 100 volunteers to participate in the Wakulla 2 Project.
Upper Paleolithic - Paleo-Indians lived at or near the spring over 12,000 years and were descendants of people who crossed into North America from eastern Asia during the Pleistocene. Clovis spear points have been found at Wakulla Springs.
Prehistoric animal life
- American mastodon (Mammut americanum) found at Wakulla.
- Ice Age camel (Camelops hesternus)
- Giant ground sloth (Eremotherium laurillardi)
- Saber-toothed tiger (Smilodon populator) found at Wakulla.
- Columbian mammoth (Mammutus columbi)
- Ancient bison (Bison antiquus)
- Equus (Equus scotti) found near Wakulla.
- Short-faced bear (Arctodus simus)
- Miocene dugong (Metaxytherium crataegense) found near Wakulla.
- American lion (Panthera leo atrox) found in Florida.
Animal life today
Found in and around Wakulla Springs are West Indian manatees, white-tailed deer, North American river otters, American alligators, Suwannee River cooters (Pseudemys suwanniensis), snapping turtles, softshell turtles, limpkin, purple gallinules, herons, egrets, bald eagles, anhingas, ospreys, common moorhens, wood ducks, black vultures and turkey vultures.
Underwater cave system
Wakulla cave consists of a dendritic network of conduits of which 12 miles (19 km) have been surveyed and mapped. The conduits are characterized as long tubes with diameter and depth being consistent (300 ft or 91 m depth); however, joining tubes can be divided by larger chambers of varying geometries. The largest conduit trends south from the spring/cave entrance for over 3.8 miles (6.1 km). Four secondary conduits, including Leon Sinks intersect the main conduit. Most of these secondary conduits have been fully explored. On December 15, 2007, Woodville Karst Plain Project divers physically connected the Wakulla Springs and Leon Sinks cave systems establishing the Wakulla-Leon Sinks cave system. This connection established the system as the longest underwater cave in the United States and the sixth largest in the world with a total of 31.99 miles (51.48 km) of explored and surveyed passages.
Specifics on flow rate
Flow rate of the spring is 200–300 million US gallons (760,000–1,140,000 m3) of water a day. A record peak flow from the spring on April 11, 1973 was measured at 14,324 US gallons (54,220 L) per second – equal to 1.2 billion US gallons (4,500,000 m3) per day.
Wakulla Springs in film
Beginning in 1938, several of the early Tarzan films including Tarzan's New York Adventure starring Johnny Weissmuller were filmed on location in Wakulla Springs. Other films such as Creature from the Black Lagoon, Night Moves, Airport '77 and Joe Panther starring Brian Keith and Ricardo Montalbán were also filmed on location at Wakulla Springs.
- Bob Gulden (April 24, 2013). "US longest underwater caves". Geo2 Committee on Long and Deep Caves. National Speleological Society (NSS). Retrieved June 12, 2013.
- Kernagis DN, McKinlay C, Kincaid TR (2008). "Dive Logistics of the Turner to Wakulla Cave Traverse". In: Brueggeman P, Pollock NW, eds. Diving for Science 2008. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences 27th Symposium. Dauphin Island, Alabama: AAUS;. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
- Gerrell, Philip R. (1987). "The history and future of archaeological and paleontological work at Wakulla Springs (8WA24)". In: Mitchell, CT (eds.) Diving for Science 86. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences Sixth Annual Scientific Diving Symposium. Held October 31 - November 3, 1986 in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. (American Academy of Underwater Sciences). Retrieved 2013-08-29.
- Burgess, Robert F. (1999). "Mastodon at Thirty-three Fathoms". The Cave Divers. Locust Valley, New York: Aqua Quest Publications. pp. 85–99. ISBN 1-881652-11-4. LCCN 96-39661.
- Olsen, S.J. (1959). The Wakulla Cave. In: Cousteau, Jacques-Yves; Dugan, James. Captain Cousteau's Underwater Treasury (Harper & Row). pp. 369–373.
- Burgess, Robert F. "Push to the Inner and Outer Limits". The Cave Divers. pp. 118–124.
- Burgess, Robert F. "Going Where None Have Gone Before". The Cave Divers. pp. 107–117.
- "History of Scuba". Retrieved 2013-08-29.
- Kakuk, Brian J. (1999). "The Wakulla 2 Project: Cutting Edge Diving Technology for Science and Exploration.". In: Hamilton RW, Pence DF, Kesling DE, eds. Assessment and Feasibility of Technical Diving Operations for Scientific Exploration. (American Academy of Underwater Sciences). Retrieved 2013-08-29.
- Bob Gulden, Jim Coke (May 13, 2013). "World longest underwater caves". Geo2 Committee on Long and Deep Caves. NSS. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
- University of Wyoming: Wakulla Springs
- Wakulla County.org
- Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park
- Wakulla Spring: A Giant Among Us Interactive Exploration of Wakulla Spring
- St. Marks River and Wakulla Springs Protection - Florida DEP
- Florida's Indians
- Tallahassee Democrat Online Special: Saving Our Springs
- Wakulla Springs and World War II Troop Maneuvers, a video from the 1940s, from the World Digital Library