The shimmer, otherworldly. As we walked beneath the ancient oaks down the slope to a bowl of turquoise, a flood of memories came back to me of a childhood spent splashing in springs. Peering through the glass-bottomed boat into spring vents in vivid hues of aquamarine, where rainbows refracted onto the ripples in the white sand below.
Madison Blue Spring is a rare place. For generations, it was the local swimming hole along the upper Withlacoochee River, which drains the swamps of Valdosta and carries tannins from Georgia into the waters of the Suwannee River.
By state park standards, it’s a small park, but state park status has changed its look and feel. No longer can people wildly dive from the rim of the sinkhole into the spring, as it is now fenced. Access points are limited.
Yet with those limits come an appreciation of preservation. Many more Florida springs once had this chalky blue center, as evidenced by the many “Blue Springs” found around our state. Some, like Rainbow Springs, adopted new names over time. For others, the brilliant blue hues have faded as their water sources continue to be drawn down and polluted with nitrates.
Madison Blue Spring is a beauty, and in its rural setting in North Florida, you would think it would be safe from these worries. Perhaps. But we couldn’t help but wince when we saw the water bottling plant just up the road on SR 6.
And there is nothing, unfortunately, that state park status can do to protect this natural wonder from changes to its surroundings.