Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Merritt's Mill Pond

Some customers in the bike shop recently told me about a lake an hour W of TLH called Merritt's Mill Pond, which was notable for being spectacularly clear. It's located right outside Marianna FL (page 32 in your trusty FL gazetteer, B1). MMP is very linear, never more than 100 meters wide, and runs roughly 4 miles NE to SW, beginning with Blue Spring at the N end and terminating at a dam. The water is, in fact, super clear where it comes out of the earth at the spring at a rather voluminous rate, enough to create some current the length of the lake. If you didn't know better, the flow and appearance of it would convince you it's a river.

With the help of a local or two, I found a sandy launch spot at the end of Day Loop Rd just down from the park at the spring (only open Memorial to Labor Day). I paddled the short distance up to the spring and spoke with a couple cave divers who were about to go down. The whole of N FL is world renowned for cave diving due to all the water that carves its way through the soft limestone (see previous posts about Lake Jackson, Leon Sinks, the St. Mark's River, the Wakulla). There was a 10'x10' swimming platform out in the middle of the spring, so I moored up to it and scrambled on. I stripped down to my trunks and dove into the cool clear water. It's 69 degrees year round, which is what I would call refreshing; you don't want to hang out in it too long, but it feels good to jump in for a minute. After that I layed on the platform and enjoyed the feeling of the sun on my skin for a while. When I'd had enough I headed S all the way to the end and then back up.

As a paddling destination, MMP isn't that great. Yes, it's very clear, but it's not that large, and aside from the water clarity, unremarkable. There's a lot of cypress stumps just below water level, which I ran into 7 or 8 times in my kayak (it'd be murder on a motor boat). It wasn't unpleasant, but I wouldn't drive the hour again just to paddle. With the park at the spring closed, though, a boat is the only way to access it, which keeps the crowd down. So maybe a place to escape the heat in the off season? Florida Caverns State Park is nearby, so maybe coupled with that.

I saw a huge flock of cormorants (you can see the double crest for which they're named right now, breeding plumage), great blue heron, great egret, red shouldered hawk, turkey vulture, crows, kingfisher, osprey, and one very large bass. I really will get some photos from the last few trips up soon; my hard drive is full and I've got to make some room before uploading new photos.

Minus the sliding board and such, it's a nice spot.

From the spring looking SW

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