Despite easy access near Live Oak, Holton Creek is a virtually unknown spot. Outing leader and biologist, Tom Morris, chose this venue as a natural progression from last month’s exploration of the sink at the Alapaha Dead River! The connection between the Dead River Sink and the rise at Holton Creek was established last year by the Florida Geological Survey when they dumped 100 pounds of fluorescein dye into the Dead River swallet. It reappeared at the Alapaha Rise within eight days and at the nearby Holton Creek Rise in ten days. This experiment showed that there are at least two conduits transporting the water over 12 miles underground between the two locations! The Alapaha Rise and the Holton Creek Rise are both first magnitude resurgences, flowing up to 800 cfs and 500 cfs, respectively. Both resurgences are major tributaries to the upper Suwannee River!
On this outing our group of 34 hikers met at the Busy Bee Truck stop at Exit 283 off Interstate 10. After everyone showed up, we caravanned 15 minutes to the trailhead at the Holton Creek Wildlife Management area, where Tom laid out the plans for the day. Basically, the plan was a simple choice. Follow Tom or stay near the road so you don’t get lost.
For those of us who followed Tom we bushwhacked through the quiet woods to the spring which serves as the source of Holton Creek.
The Holton Tract is loaded with scores of valleys, all waiting to be explored. The valleys appear to be formed by a combination of limestone solution and erosion by fast moving water when the Suwannee is in a flood state.
The first animal uncovered was a gray tree frog, which were plentiful near the creek. Note the golden spots on the inner thigh, which is a diagnostic feature.
Tom Morris brought some forestry tools, including a diameter tape and an increment bore to measure tree diameter and age. The tape measure divides the circumference by pi so no math skills are required by the user (D=C/pi).
The young and strong Noah Jones volunteered to screw the boring tool into the tree to extract a core.
Debbie Spiceland is holding up the core to show the growth rings. This particular tree was about 30 years old!
The the age of the Live Oak picture below was discussed during the hike as well. Live Oak wood is hard and dense so the boring tool will not work on them.
A not so fun fact: The only way to age a live oak is to cut it down.
Rachael Nutter decided to climb it!
Someone also spotted a luna moth!
Note the hefty thorns on the Water Locust Tree below. They are usually more numerous than this and typically extend about 20 feet up the trunk. It has been hypothesized that the thorns evolved to deter the, now extinct, giant ground sloths of the Pleistocene! Do not walk barefoot around the Water Locust Tree, as thorns do fall to the ground!
Atamasco lilies were common ground cover. Do not eat. They are poisonous.
And finally, we arrived at the confluence of Holton Creek and the Suwannee River.
All in all, we had a great day strolling through the woods and it was one of our largest Springs Outing groups yet!
Written by FSI Board Member, Dave Wilson