Otter Springs in Trenton, Fla., has lots of promise, little payoff

Coming off of my guarded endorsement of Hart Springs, we’re headed 10 minutes south to Otter Springs, which, like Hart, feeds the Suwannee River.  Otter Springs sign

Otter Springs is a second-magnitude spring, meaning it pumps out an awful lot of water (somewhere between 7 and 70 million gallons every day).  The park is privately run, and it has a modest entrance fee – only $4 a person.  The entrance fee gets you access to the springs, the boat ramp and a few miles of hiking trails.

The park also has a large RV campground near the springs.  Not close enough to be disruptive, but close enough to offer campers easy access.  I’ve been RV camping many, many times, and I’ve got to say, I’ve never seen sites as tightly packed as these ones.  I like to keep a little space from my neighbors, but that’s out of the question here.  On the plus side, there is an indoor swimming pool.  Frankly, I was a little surprised to see an indoor swimming pool a few hundred yards from a natural spring.  But then I saw the spring, and it all made sense.

I hate to be disparaging about this place.  The woman in the office was extremely helpful, answering all of my questions with a smile, and she gave me plenty of maps to help me get around.  But the springs are in rough shape.

Crowd at Otter Springs

A bustling crowd gathers at the spring

The first, ominous clue was the crowd (or lack thereof) at the spring.  On Memorial Day weekend with good weather, when all of the other springs in the area were packed and with a crowded campground a hundred yards away, there were fewer than a dozen people people at the spring and fewer than five in the water.  All of them were in the ankle-deep part of the spring run, and the spring vent pool was completely empty.  Three of the five were children.

I’ll preface the rest of the review by making a few important notes.  First, I never got in the water, so I can’t testify to the full experience.  And second, it’s quite possible that I caught the spring on a bad day, because the pictures on their website look quite lovely.

Otter Springs

The big vent at Otter Springs

On the day I visited, the water had a milky hue and was covered with a green film.  Typically, because of the constant flow of clean water from the vent, springs have the clearest water around, even when they haven’t been used much.  Otter Springs, for whatever reason, looked more like a stagnant pond, and I can’t figure out why.  There was no evidence that the water was moving at all.

I had high expectations for Otter Springs.  The drive out there was absolutely beautiful.  Wildflowers bloomed along the roadside and family farms stretch on for miles in every direction.  A painted wooden sign and a pleasant welcome center greet you at the park entrance.  You drive down a bumpy dirt road and around a corner and then… the spring.

I was disappointed.  The parking lot was empty save for one other car, and a big yellow sign welcomes you to the river and lays out the rules.  No fishing in the swimming area.  Behind the sign, in the swimming area, two teenagers were fishing.

Farmhouse

Farmhouse on the way to Otter Springs

I’m an adventurous soul, but there is nothing appealing about getting into slimy, green water, especially when there are so many other enticing options in the county.

The longest hiking trail (only a mile and a half) offered a bit of promise, but the trail was made of thick sand, like walking on the beach but without the water or the breeze.  The posted sign says the trail is for hiking, biking and, if I read the symbols correctly, golf carts.  I didn’t have much desire to hike through the sand, especially after the disappointment of the springs themselves.  I didn’t bring a bike with me, but biking through deep sand isn’t one of my preferred activities either.  I don’t own a golf cart, but that sounds like it might be the best option.

Still, I’m sure I’ll find myself back at the park in the near future, specifically to see what’s at the end of that trail.  According to the map, it’s “Little Otter Springs,” another spring vent closer to the river.  It’s off limits for swimming, but I’d still like to see it.

Kayak launch

Kayak launch, spring run to the Suwannee River

This park gets a no-go from me.  If you’re looking to explore the springs, there are better options.  Negative reviews aren’t fun to write, but Florida Adventurer’s goal is to provide honest reviews.  And I honestly didn’t like this place.

In other words, you otter go somewhere else (OK, I had to – I’m surprised I was able to wait that long).

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Trackbacks

  1. […] Otter and Hart Springs just to the north, Fanning Springs is a second-magnitude spring that empties into […]

  2. […] the wonderful Fanning and Hart springs, and the slightly less lovely Otter Springs.  And further north, there’s Falmouth […]

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