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Panhandle Outdoor Live: 2019 Springs Tour

The UF/IFAS Northwest Extension District Panhandle Outdoors LIVE team invites you to travel to three local springs: Vortex, Ponce de Leon, and Morrison Springs on August 21, 2019. The goal of the day is to learn about spring characteristics, history, biodiversity and management issues. These popular springs in the western Panhandle are managed by three different entities – the private sector, local government and a state agency.

The day will begin at Vortex Springs (participants supply own transportation). Vortex Spring produces 28 million gallons of crystal clear water daily at a year-round temperature of 68 degrees. Depths in the spring basin range from about 50 feet for a cavern dive and up to 115 feet for a cave dive. The bottom of the spring bowl is sandy, with limestone near the vent. Vortex waters flow out of the 225-foot-diameter spring pool to form Blue Creek, which flows over a half-mile before entering the Choctawhatchee River.

The next stop is Ponce de Leon Springs State Park where participants will learn about the springs and water quality. Managed by a state agency, this beautiful spring is named for Juan Ponce de León, who led the first Spanish expedition to Florida in 1513 – as legend has it – in search of the “Fountain of Youth”. Visitors might well regain their youth by taking a dip in the clear waters where the temperature is a shocking 68 degrees F. year-round. The main spring produces 14 million gallons of water daily into a crescent-shaped basin with depths averaging five feet but increasing to 16 feet over the vents. The bottom is sand and limestone and gives the popular swimming area a light greenish blue appearance. The spring-run is approximately 350 feet in length and flows into Sandy Creek, a blackwater stream, which subsequently flows out of the park and into the Choctawhatchee River.

Our final destination is Morrison Springs, managed by Walton County. The large, sandy-bottomed spring is surrounded by a 161-acre park and is a popular spot for swimming, snorkeling, diving, birding, photography and nature walks . Morrison Spring discharges an average of 48 million gallons of crystal-clear water each day to create a 250-foot-diameter spring pool and a spring run that flows into the Choctawhatchee River.

Tentative Agenda:

9:00 – 10:30 – Meet at Vortex Springs (1517 Vortex Springs Lane, Ponce de Leon, Florida 32455). Staff interpretation.

10:45 – 12:00 – Meet at Ponce de Leon State Park (2860 Ponce de Leon Springs Rd, 32455 Ponce de Leon, FL). Ranger Fred Provost will interpret, short hike along spring run (short hike, ¼ mile, through woods, uneven path, wear appropriate footwear).

12:15 – 1:00 – Meet and eat lunch (bring your own) at Morrison Springs ( 874 Morrison Springs Rd, Ponce de Leon, FL 32455), interpretation Melinda Gates, Coastal Resource Liaison, Walton County.

1:00 – 3:00 – Kayak Paddle (optional)* 1 mile downstream on Morrison Spring Run to Choctawhatchee River and paddle back (moderate paddle, not easy, participants must be able to unload/load their own kayak from trailer to water with assistance).

3:00 Dismiss**

Tickets:  Eventbrite Panhandle Outdoor Live: 2019 Springs Tour

9:00 – 1:00 Tour only $20.00 – Visit three springs with interpretation, bring your own lunch.

*9:00 – 3:00 Tour and 2 hour kayak $40.00 – Kayak the Morrison Springs Run down to the Choctawhatchee River and back (weather and water permitting). You will either be assigned to a single or double kayak including personal floatation device and paddle, depending on availability. Personal kayaks not permitted.

** Attendees are welcome to stay at Morrison Springs to swim/snorkel/explore on thier own