Made up of liquid pools of beauty on the edge of Florida Caverns State Park, Baltzell Spring is a compelling destination for spring hunters along the Chipola River in Marianna.
Lat-Lon: 30.816502,-85.234094 (launch)
Fees: Florida State Parks entrance fee
From exit 142 for Marianna on Interstate 10, drive north on SR 71 for 2 miles. Turn west onto US 90 and follow it into Marianna. Follow signs to Florida Caverns State Park. Once you’ve paid the entrance fee and entered the park, take a right at the first paved road, 0.9 mile into the park. Continue another 0.9 mile, with a 90* turn about halfway along, and turn right into the trailhead at the Chipola River.
The Chipola River does a curious thing as it approaches the cavern-studded karst of Florida Caverns State Park: it dives underground. There are only a handful of rivers in Florida that do the same thing, the Aucilla, St. Marks, and Santa Fe being prime examples. Adjoining the parking area is the natural bridge, which many park visitors don’t notice at all. First, the park road is on top of it, and the other side is very swampy. Second, there is a bridge because there is a waterway, but it’s hardly the width of the river. It’s a narrow canal built nearly a century ago to float logs downriver to a timber mill.
Because of this natural barrier and the river swamp you find to the south of it – which is a distinct feature along the Caverns Hiking Trail that loops the caverns area of the park – the Chipola River is considered a river in two parts. It’s from the launch at this trailhead you can start upriver on the Upper Chipola River Paddling Trail, a 4.5-mile journey if you undertake it all. And there’s a compelling reason to paddle upstream from this take-out.
Baltzell Spring. While classified as a single first-magnitude spring, it’s actually made up of four very different springs. The first is a mile north of the put-in, and is in the river itself.
The remainder of the springs are less than a quarter mile upstream. Follow the spring run to find them.
Although they are popular for swimming and snorkeling, alligators have been seen here. Use caution. Also, they are surrounded by private property. Respect the “No Trespassing” signs on the land.
Bring your own kayak or rent a canoe from Florida Caverns State Park to enjoy this incredible natural treasure. Learn more about the journey to Baltzell from springs photographer Travis Marques.
Our thanks to Christy Andreasen of Visit Jackson County for finding cave mapper Matthew Bull to contribute the above photos of Baltzell, since we have not yet had the opportunity to make this paddling trip.