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Paul and I were feeling spontaneous one Saturday, and feeling inspired by my list of places in a short driving radius that I found by using Oalley, we decided to head down to Green Cove Springs.  The whole state of Florida had been in a panic for days because of the impending Hurricane Dorian (which, mercifully, did very little damage to the State after all), and we had been mostly at home for two or three days getting ready for the storm.  We wanted to get out, and Green Cove Springs, which is about 30 miles from Jacksonville, seemed like a nice little getaway.

I knew that we wanted to explore Spring Park, which is the hub of activity along the waterfront, and so off we went.  We got there around noon and stopped for lunch right next door to the park at Ronnie’s Wings, Oysters, and More, and had an enjoyable lunch.

Lunch next door to the park

After we ate, we walked next door to the park and headed first down to the river.  I love the St. John’s River.  It has provided the backdrop to my whole life here in Jacksonville, shaped it’s history, and still affects much of the industries that come here.  Jacksonville is a huge logistics center due to the river, our flat land and warm weather that is excellent for airports, and the crossing of I-95 and I-10.  The need for a ferry across the river started the demand for the town of Jacksonville, which makes the river the very reason any of us are here.  I always want to see my river whenever I can.

The inviting pier at Green Cove Springs, Florida

Looking back from the pier towards the town of Green Cove Springs, Florida

Gazing out over the beautiful St. John’s River. Fun fact: Paul was born over the river on a bridge (in the back of a vehicle).

The pier was fun to walk on.  Families were out chatting and fishing, and a few boats were tied up to a small dock at the end.  I commented to Paul that if I lived in walking distance to a nice pier, I would come down all the time.  Still, in a way I do live close to many nice piers, I just have to drive to get to them.

After the pier, we turned and walked back up towards the fairly large park that puts the Spring in Green Cove Springs.  Being a Florida history buff, I knew that the spring had been enclosed after it was touted as having healing effects.  Northeast Florida had a tourist heydey in the late 1800s before the trains went south of here and there was no Disney World, and at one point people would come to Green Cove Springs for the healing effects of the water, often during a trip to Jacksonville.

Still, despite knowing that the spring would look heavily modified by man, I’d never seen something that was so close to where I live, so I wanted to check it out.  Starting from the river, we worked our way through the park back up towards the spring itself.

We first encountered the spring run, where the spring pumps water into the St. John’s River.

Where the spring water meets the St. John’s River. We saw many minnows and other small fish swimming against the current into the spring run.

The crystal clear waters of the Florida springs.

The little creek of spring water runs into the St. John’s River.

As we followed the spring run upwards towards its source, we explored the more relaxing areas of the park.  There were many quality swings for couples and families to enjoy and park benches in the shade, as well as gazebos and other covered areas with picnic tables.  The park was very well maintained and many locals were out enjoying the amenities.  There was a playground for young children, a large area with grills for cooking out, and many clean concrete pathways to stroll along.

Spring Park in Green Cove Springs, Florida has many covered places for parties and cookouts.

The main feature of Spring Park for most visitors is the spring-fed pool.  Yes, all the water in the pool comes directly from Florida’s aquifer!  The spring is sulfur, but we never smelled much except when we were near the rocks that catch the water flowing from the pool and ease it into the spring run to flow towards the river.

This is not something you see many places in the world: the pool’s water runs out, into the stream that flows to the river. The pool is constantly flowing from the spring into the pool, and out the other side, and has no chlorine.

The decorative rocks over which the spring water flows out of the pool.

We walked around the pool to find the spring itself.  I’ve seen a couple of Florida springs, but none like this!  Most springs look like small fountains bubbling up from sand, or just a region at the bottom of a pooled area where the water is moving.  This, however, looked surreal.

In person, this doesn’t appear real as the spring hole pushes upwards to this pretty water feature flowing into the pool.

The water is shallow and looks like poured glass, or as if someone sealed rocks and a dark hole in clear acrylic.  The water appeared still and created a perfect reflection, but if you watched carefully, you could see that deep within the hole the water was stirring, and occasionally a small bit of something would whirl around.  The hole seemed deep.  Apparently it goes 120 feet down.  It is beautiful and also a little eerie.  I don’t have a fear of heights, but in a way being near the opening, despite being separated from the spring hole by a fence, makes you feel like you might fall in.  I think the sensation is related to the strange calmness.  Such a beautiful sunny day walking along the water, and then suddenly, a big, dark, hole of water appears in front of you.

The Green Cove Spring.

This would probably be a fun Florida spring cave dive, but people are not allowed in.

I thought that coming to see the spring would be something of a waste of time, as the historic photos I’d seen made the spring look like little more than a well.  However, I’m so very glad I came and had the experience of seeing the spring with Paul!  I doubt there is any other spring quite like it in the Southeastern US!

Cypress and their knees along the St. John’s River.

Paul and I decided to drive a bit more around Green Cove Springs.  We went to the Treasure Box, a thrift/antique/new decor combination shop set up with booths like an antique shop.  We also decided to go and see St. Mary’s Episcopal Church while we were here.  There is a cemetery I remember seeing when I was much younger and I was hoping it was located at this church.  It wasn’t, but it was a pretty little historic place, nonetheless.

After looking around the pretty grounds, we decided we’d had enough of being outside in the heat and would head back to Jacksonville.  Next time, I’d like to explore the military and train museums located here, check out their very common boating culture which seems to drive a lot of the industry here, and perhaps stay the night at a Bed and Breakfast.

Thanks for hosting us today, Green Cove Springs!

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