Just over one month ago, the Florida Springs Institute teamed up with Palmetto Expeditions to host a special tour of the Wakulla Springs basin with FSI Board Member and former Florida State Parks Chief Biologist, Jim Stevenson. In the environmental community Jim is affectionately known as the grandfather of springs protection due to his leadership as Chairman of the Florida Springs Task Force and his advocacy efforts with local groups such as the Wakulla Springs Alliance and Ichetucknee Alliance. An outing with Jim is always a treat for FSI members and supporters!
The group met in the morning at Cascades Park near the state Capitol building in Tallahassee. Jim started off the tour by explaining that the Cody Scarp – a karst feature that is an area of high recharge to our aquifer – not only travels through the center of the state, but also travels north into the Wakulla Springs basin. Jim also mentioned that the park was built upon a former Superfund Site, which was dumping pollution into nearby waters that eventually lead to Wakulla Springs.
The next stop on the tour was Lake Henrietta, where Jim discussed water quality issues. Over time, thick layers of silt and trash have built up in this lake. Jim informed the group that the city has cited lack of funding as the reason why cleanup of the water here has not occurred.
The wastewater treatment plant was the next stop on our tour where we learned that a dye trace study in 2006 revealed that it takes 56 days for wastewater from the City of Tallahassee’s sprayfield to travel just under 10.5 miles to Wakulla Springs. Although this wastewater is treated, it still contains pollutants harmful to our springs and rivers.
At Lake Munson, the group learned that this waterbody is the third most polluted lake in Florida and that a health advisory warns the public not to eat more than one fish per month caught in this area.
The second half of the tour included stops at two sinks where water travels underground and flows through the karst geology to Wakulla Springs.
Our final stop on the tour was the main attraction, Wakulla Springs State Park. Jim ended the tour on the top of the jumping platform overlooking the head spring, where he addressed the lack of birds and other wildlife in the area as well as a loss in water clarity over the last 50 years. A notable example of this loss of biodiversity is the limpkin, a species of bird that disappeared from Wakulla Springs when the native apple snail population declined.
At the conclusion of the tour, Jim asked everyone to tell him one new fact they learned. Every participant had something to share! Jim regularly gives the Saving Wakulla Springs Overland Tour through Palmetto Expeditions in the spring and fall and the proceeds benefit the Friends of Wakulla Springs State Park. You can find more information about the next tour here.
Thank you, Jim, for sharing your wealth of knowledge about Wakulla Springs with us on this special springs outing!