Troy Spring State Park is a hidden gem tucked away on the Suwannee River in North Florida. Named for the freshwater spring on its property, this park is a perfect illustration of the reason this particular part of Florida is known as spring country.
The parkland is covered in dense hardwood hammock, with a half-mile counterclockwise nature trail looping through it. Barred owls frequent the woods, so listen closely for their distinct call. As the path continues, hikers emerge onto a low floodplain area, which, when dry, offers an interesting above-the-water view of aquatic plant life. The highlight of this trail is still ahead: the bluffs along the Suwannee River. From this vantage point, visitors can watch for passing manatees and leaping sturgeon; in fact, this portion of the river is known for having a sturgeon population so active, people have been knocked out of their boats.
The spring itself can be viewed from the bluffs as well; a circular pool that transitions from bright and clear around the edges to a deeper blue at the center. This color change is the first hint at the magnificent depths hidden below the smooth surface. After hiking in the Florida warmth, the water beckons visitors to leave the trails and dive in.
The spring is accessible via a well maintained walkway that crisscrosses down the bluff. (Keep an eye out on the walk down — the ramp is lined with native plants that attract butterflies). At the bottom lies a platform that overlooks the spring, with two stairways leading into the water. Limestone formations are exposed in a semi-circle around the spring pool, and snorkelers can often observe fish and turtles darting in between the rocks. Moving outwards, the water begins to feel cooler, and after just a brief swim, the depths of Troy Spring are revealed.
The spring vent lies 70 feet below the surface of the water, nestled at the bottom of a dramatic underwater cliff face. On sunny days, swimmers at the surface can see from top to bottom, and will often see scuba divers exploring down below. The force of the first magnitude spring is palpable — the spring's current is an invitation to float along and explore the run as it flows toward the Suwannee.
The run itself is short, but not devoid of interest. Besides turtles and spawning catfish, the remains of the Civil War era steamboat named Madison lie along the sandy bottom. Purposely sunk to avoid capture by Union forces, the shell of the Madison is now covered in algae and other aquatic life, but is still a unique piece of history to explore. As always in Florida waters, remember to swim with a buddy and keep an eye out for alligators.
Note that the swimming area is occasionally closed when river level is high.