Gushing nearly 200,000 gallons per day, Boulware Springs is the centerpiece of a park that serves as the western terminus of the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail.
It is not a swimming spring, but it has a fascinating history, and still provides a home for turtles and other wildlife. The 1890s waterworks that surround it are a National Historic Site.
Trailhead: 29.621302, -82.306106
Address: 3300 SE 15th St, Gainesville
Land manager: City of Gainesville
Open 7 AM to 6 PM Nov-Apr, 7 AM to 8 PM May-Oct. Leashed pets welcome.
From I-75 at Williston Rd at the south end of Gainesville, drive east on Williston Rd (SR 331), crossing US 441 after 4.3 miles. Continue around the curve past the western entrance to the preserve and the traffic light. Turn right onto SE 4th St, which curves slightly to become SE 21st Ave.
Turn right on SE 15th St and continue a half mile to the park entrance. Skip the first entrance unless you’re headed to the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail trailhead. The main entrance to Boulware Springs Park is the next one. There is parking near the picnic area or follow the entrance road all the way back for parking near the spring.
As the City of Gainesville began to grow, a municipal water source was needed. To take care of this need, the city purchased Boulware Springs in 1891. It was just two miles southeast of downtown.
The water previously flowed right into Paynes Prairie. Building a set of brick reservoirs for the spring water to pool in, the city tapped it with a pipe in 1898 and fed it into the municipal water system.
In 1905, the city dangled the carrot of free municipal water to attract the University of Florida, which originally planned to put their campus in Lake City.
Abandoned by 1948, the waterworks were finally decommissioned in 1984. Restored by Gainesville Regional Utilities, the original waterworks surrounding the spring are now a National Historic Site.
While the spring’s flow was once higher, it is still within the range of a third magnitude spring.
As it was before it was tapped for municipal water, its outflow, which flows through an adjacent subdivision, now feeds Paynes Prairie. It is the only spring run feeding the prairie.
The parking area near the waterworks is small, but enables access for you to climb down into the basin and see the spring and the surrounding waterworks. Restrooms are inside the waterworks building.
In addition to the spring, the park has a picnic grove between the spring and the park entrance. A secondary entrance north of the main entrance to Boulware Springs Park leads back to the official western terminus trailhead for the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail.
See our slides from exploring Boulware Springs Park
Trails at Boulware Springs
All of the following trails can be accessed from the trailhead at Boulware Springs Park. Just follow the paved bike path out of the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail terminus in the appropriate direction.
One of North Florida’s oldest bike paths, the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail provides a mostly shaded rural ride
There are a handful of places that stand out as excellent locations for wildlife watching in Florida, but the best place to see alligators is in the home of the Gators, Gainesville
More places to explore near Boulware Springs Park
Protecting a massive natural basin of prairie between Micanopy and Gainesville, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park combines panoramic views with wildlife watching along its trails
Under the dense canopy of a hardwood forest, the Prairie Creek Boardwalk provides a unique perspective on the creek that links Paynes Prairie and Newnans Lake.
In the deep shade of the floodplain of Prairie Creek near Gainesville, Prairie Creek Preserve is a beauty spot provided to the public by the Alachua Conservation Trust