Ginnie Springs, Florida
February 15-16, 1997
Dive - Site..................Depth - Time
It was a cool Saturday morning in February as I packed my gear and loaded my car for another trip. This time, I was going to Ginnie Springs with the Lanier Dive Center. The weather was cool and the clouds increased as I drove south into Florida. After some confusion with the direction, I found my way to Jim Hollis' River Rendezvous; a diving campground located at Convict Springs on the Suwannee river.
I can't say much for the Rendezvous except that it was cheap and there was hot water. It would be a good place to camp (in warmer weather), but the rooms were minimal. Bare wallboard with exposed wiring, uncomfortable beds and I had to ask twice for sheets. You can't bring dive gear into the rooms (at a dive resort?) so you have to hang your wetsuit outside, which wouldn't have been so bad if the weather hadn't been down to the low 40s at night. And, the bar doesn't serve alcohol any more (at a dive resort?).
There had been a good deal of rain the past few days and Convict springs was flooded. We called around a few places and found that the only open spring in the area was Ginnie. So, off we went.
Ginnie Springs is a full featured dive resort. There are several springs on the site, two of which are diveable. There is also a large campground, several bath houses (with hot showers), a full service dive shop and more.
Ginnie allows snorkelers, divers and cave divers. They use a wristband system to distinguish between the three. Snorkelers can use any of the springs. Divers can dive in the main spring, Ginnie, and in the Devils springs. They are allowed to enter the cave at Ginnie, but not at the Devils springs. In fact, non-cave divers are not allowed to carry lights in the Devils spring system. Cave divers can enter any of the caves. It costs $5 to snorkel and $24 to dive (and that doesn't include tanks).
A few of our divers were startled to learn that Ginnie would not recognize their PADI Cave Certification. In order to qualify as a cave diver, you have to be certified by either NSS-CDS (National Speleological Society - Cave Diving Section) or NACD (National Association for Cave Diving). Something to keep in mind.
Diving is easy at Ginnie. There are plenty of picnic tables and shelters near the springs to set up gear and there are nice wooden steps for entrys and exits. And, as I mentioned earlier, there are bath houses with changing areas and showers.
Our first dive was in Ginnie spring. The thing that gets me the most every time I visit Ginnie is the incredible clarity of the water. Despite having at least 30 people in the water, it stayed absolutely clear. (The 30 million gallon a day output of the spring probably has something to do with that.) Despite the large number of swimmers there was also a good amount of aquatic life around, much more than I have seen on my previous trips.
I also took the opportunity to enter the main cavern. The cavern is in two main sections, a low, flat upper section which opens up into a larger section that slopes downward to about 45 feet. There, the entrance to the mouth of the spring is closed off with a metal grating. The current coming out of the spring is quite strong and you have to hold on to keep from being swept away.
Moving from Ginnie, we went to the Devil's system. There are three springs sharing a common run. Devil's Claw is a narrow crack that descends about 40 feet to a sandy bottom. The spring comes from a narrow opening at one end of the crack. Devil's Eye is a circular hole about 20 feet across and 20 feet deep. A low, narrow cave opening is at one side. This is the main spring used by cave divers, and several entered the opening on DPVs while I was there. Finally, Devil's Ear is at the end of the run where it joins the Santa Fe river. It is a wide crack partially filled with large tree trunks. The crack seems to narrow as it descends, and I did not proceed to the bottom.
We did dives at Ginnie both days. Ginnie is a little small for an entire weekend (unless you are a cave diver) but for a quick getaway it remains one of my favorites.
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