The crystal clear water comes bubbling up from an incredible depth of 185 feet at the amazing average rate of 250 million gallons per day. The first magnitude Wakulla Springs is one of the longest and deepest freshwater springs in the world. Over 200,000 visitors a year come from all over the globe to marvel this astonishing wonder. The temperate waters of this massive spring (69 degrees Fahrenheit each and every day) form the headwaters of the Wakulla River that flows nine miles through old growth cypress swamps and hardwood hammocks before it joins with the St. Marks River and empties into Apalachee Bay. This sanctuary is one of Florida’s finest areas for wildlife observation. Alligators, manatees, turtles, fish and over 180 species of birds, as well as large populations of whitetail deer, wild turkey and other wildlife live in or along the protected river corridor and surrounding woods of the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park.
The refreshing waters of Wakulla Spring have long been an alluring attraction. Glass bottom boats giving passengers remarkable underwater views have been part of the spring’s history as far back as 1875 when locals entertained visitors in a rowboat with a windowpane hull. The incredible water clarity aided the recovery of a complete mastodon skeleton which remains on display at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee.
Sadly, Glass-Bottom Boat Tours over the spring basin have become the exception rather than the rule in recent years. Tea-stained or green water impedes the penetration of light needed to view the impressive features of the deep chasm of Wakulla Spring. Heavy rains, combined with other unknown factors, are thought to be the cause of decreased visibility.
On those rare days (usually in late winter or early spring) when the “mysterious waters” of Wakulla Spring may momentarily regain their aquamarine tint and crystal clear quality, the gasps of visitors moved by the spring’s abyss can once again be heard. The ancient remains of great furry elephants (mastodons) can be seen resting on the basin’s steep sandy slopes. Schools of catfish dance in the spring’s depths, fish conventions follow the boat, and even out-of-practice Henry-the-Pole-Vaulting-Fish may choose to entertain upon request of the captain.
When possible, the 30 minute Glass-Bottom Boat Tour departs at 12:00pm, 1:00pm, and 2:00pm weather and water clarity permitting. The tour times endeavor to take advantage of the sun’s best light. The cost of the tour is $8 for adults (13 years old and up), $5 for children (ages 3-12), and under the age of three there is no charge. To avoid disappointment, it is strongly suggested that the park be contacted prior to expected visitation to ascertain the feasibility of glass-bottom boat operation. Water quality conditions can change rapidly and unexpectedly.
Eight movies have been filmed in and around Wakulla Springs, most notably, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Airport 77, and Tarzan films. Wakulla Springs also served as a military training facility for amphibious exercises, and rest and relaxation for soldiers during World War II.
The elegant, two-story Wakulla Springs Lodge with 27 guest rooms was created by Florida business tycoon, Edward Ball and turned this area into a luxury tourist destination when it opened in 1937. The lodge designed of Spanish-Moorish architecture with period art deco influence uses “heart” cypress and lavish pink and gray marble throughout. The grand reception room with large fireplace and marble-topped checker tables, leads out to a glassed terrace with splendid views of the springs. In the gift shop is the world’s largest marble soda fountain over 70 feet in length. Most impressive though is the decorated ceiling and cypress clad beams stenciled and painted with local wildlife scenes and European folk art designs. Through the years, the Wakulla Springs Lodge has hosted many politicians, foreign dignitaries and celebrities.
Wakulla Springs officially became a state park in October of 1986 and offers visitors a wide range of guest activities. Guided riverboat tours are available daily and introduce the unique and natural “Real Florida” to delighted passengers.
The River Boat Tours run 365 days a year weather permitting (Temperatures must be above 40 degrees and tours are not conducted during thunderstorms.) The boats are 30 feet long and have a roof. There is also a wheelchair accessible boat that is available upon request.
The Waterfront Visitor’s Center opens at 9:30am and the first boat departs at 9:40am. Succeeding tours depart at varying times, depending on visitor demand. Greater visitation results in more frequent tours. The last tour of the day during Standard Time departs at 4:30pm EST. The last tour of the day during Daylight Saving Time is 5:00pm EDT. The cost of the tour is $8 for adults (13 years old and up), $5 for children (ages 3-12); under the age of three there is no charge.
Nature and hiking trails lead through natural habitats and stands of champion Florida trees. An observation and diving platform offers spectacular views into the spring. Swimming is popular during the summer months with a bathhouse and concessions. Pavilions and grills are available in the picnic area. Inside the lodge there is a full service dining room, snack bar/gift shop with meeting facilities and overnight lodging available.
Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park is located 15 miles south of Tallahassee at 465 Wakulla Park Drive. Wakulla Springs, FL. Open 8 a.m. until sundown year round. Entrance fee $6 per vehicle, $2 pedestrians and bicyclists. Phone: (850) 561-7276.
Hours & Details
8:00am until sunset every day of the year.
History & Culture
465 Wakulla Park Drive
Wakulla Springs, Florida
- (850) 561-7276