Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

A Diver’s Spring

Thursday Afternoon April 10, 2014
Suwannee River State Park
Live Oak, Florida


Yesterday we took a road trip from Suwannee River State Park to visit some nearby springs. If you are a springs lover like I am, you might want to read that post first.  You can find it here.   We managed to fit visits to three springs into the afternoon, but I could only fit two into yesterday’s post.   Hmmmm that should tell me something shouldn’t it??



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In 2010, Peacock Spring State Park was renamed Wes Skiles Peacock Spring State Park in honor of Skiles a cave diving pioneer, explorer and underwater cinematographer. He created, directed and was the cinematographer for the PBS series ‘Water’s Journey’ among other things like being the first human to set foot on Iceberg B-15 in Antarctica.  Wes Skiles was a man following his bliss.




The park is a major caving attraction. ALL of the benches in the park that are not picnic benches are the high diving benches to enable divers to mount their tanks. Not a place I can easily sit down for a rest that’s for sure.






The picnic tables are normal size picnic tables but next to those giant benches, they look like they are made for hobbits.





However there is no diving today. And no swimming either which is the second most popular activity at this park and the one I am interested in.

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The Nature Conservancy first bought 250 acres here in 1985 to protect the extensive stand of Florida Maples and two distinct aquatic cave systems connected to the Suwannee River – the 8.5 mile Peacock Springs system and the 1.5 mile Bonnet system.  Subsequent acquisitions protected five 2nd magnitude springs. 

We are so lucky to have the Nature Conservancy who can step in to protect land while our governments,  local and state, pass laws, bills, orders and whatever in order to buy the property.   The property was originally owned by Dr. John Peacock who brought his family here from Troy, North Carolina in 1857.  He was the town doctor and made house calls by horse and buggy.


It’s an amazing cave system as you can see from the maps.   The map on the left is the entire system.   The map on the right is an enlargement of the section shown in the lower right of the first map.   If you are a cave diver, this is the place to be.





We are the only ones in the park as we check out both the Orange Grove spring and the Peacock Spring. 


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Here at Orange Grove Spring it’s hard to tell for sure where the spring even is the flooding is so dramatic.  It is just a wonderland.  I can’t imagine what it must look  like when it isn’t flooding.





The side walls must be limestone to be so eaten with holes.  It’s really beautiful.   They have left it totally natural.  5 thumbs up!!


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There is a parking lot at Orange Grove and one down at the end of the road for Peacock Spring. We start to drive down to Peacock and run into flooding on the road. Ruby is a low to the ground girl so we decide to walk the road instead. As we go and the water increases, I am glad of this decision.


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Here too everything is under water.








These steps into the spring were built by friends of Sheck Exley and dedicated to his memory. Exley too was an original explorer of the elaborate cave system of Peacock Springs and a pioneer of cave diving. A plaque beside the trail explains the dedication. Exley wrote two major books on Cave Diving and was the first chairman of the Cave Diving section of the National Speleological Society.





Both Stiles and Exley died while diving at what seem to me to be young ages, 52 and 45 respectively. Cave diving is clearly a dangerous occupation/hobby. David says he thinks it would be terrific to be down there and wonders what equipment costs. It’s not even something I would consider doing. Not being able to breathe is perhaps my only real phobia.  I’m ok with heights, snakes, close places, small places, frogs but the idea of possibly not being able to get a breath is a major fear for me.

I’ll just swim on top and snorkel.   Sure wish I could.  The springs were a major reason we got snorkel equipment.



At Peacock we also see a map of a trail that supposedly starts at Orange Grove and looks very interesting. But the mosquitoes are so bothersome that we determine we’ll come back for the hike on another day when perhaps it’s not so wet and encouraging to the little devils.




David takes a picture of it for when we return.  It’s always good to leave something until “next time”.

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  1. With all the flooding, it is hauntingly beautiful, isn't it. And with all the 'new' spring leaves and color....

  2. Cave Diving will NOT be on our "To Do" list. Don't like to feel closed in and the fear of not getting a breath is at the top of my list also!!! However, the springs sure are beautiful and sorry they are all flooded;o((

  3. Tell David cave diving is much more expensive than regular scuba diving. MUCH, more and when you are in a cave it's pitch black except for where your light is (and you have to have at least 2 lights). There aren't any beautiful tropical fish and you can't see the sun shining through. In my humble opinion, it can't compare to diving in the open ocean.

  4. Yeah, No, cave diving is NOT on my list either. Love seeing all these beautiful springs, on my list for the next time we manage to get to Northern Florida. So incredibly beautiful. Definitely different seeing all this water at this time of year. I remember visiting Bel and April was almost always fire weather.

  5. Well, you learn something new every day (or at least I try to)! Did you just KNOW what those tall benches were used for or was their a sign explaining it? I would've had no clue and it would've driven me NUTS till I could figure it out. Much as I detest my own phobias (I have two, snakes and claustrophobia), I've spent a lot of time reading about how they start and ways to overcome them. So far, educating myself hasn't done a whole lot towards eliminating the phobia. So sorry you aren't being able to swim. Leaving Florida without having mad much progress towards that goal of swimming in all the springs must be frustrating. But it is what it is and as well know, we can't control nature!

  6. Had a friend who dived until his tanks exploded while on (long time ago) so diving has never been on my list of things to do. So sorry you're not able to get any swimming in the springs in, lots of water here in KY too, because of which we won't be canoeing some of their rivers here.

  7. Sharon beat me to it and asked the very question that was going through my mind.

  8. 52 and 45 are both very young. That is nice that they honor those explorers there - I think it would be amazing to explore underwater worlds and be the first to do it, but it is dangerous and in the caves so dark - I like the idea of snorkeling in tropical areas - bright colors, clear waters. What a wet season this has been in Florida...a water wonderland for sure.

  9. Have you ever wondered how long you would need to remain in a state to see and do everything that crosses your mind? It, possibly, could take a lifetime.

  10. nope. . .I'll join the consensus on the cave diving. . .not really crazy about just walking in a cave. . .but I do think the springs are lovely. . .or would be under normal circumstances. . .maybe next time!

  11. I'm with you concerning cave diving. I would definitely go scuba diving but going into a cave would be scary. When I was a kid, I read this story about Houdini swimming in a frozen river while handcuffed. He only had a tiny tiny area of air between the water and the ice above him. I still remember it vividly and find it terrifying and claustrophobic. XXXOOO Can't wait to see you!

  12. The water does give the area a rather spooky appearance but very cool at the same time. I just developed the ability to snorkel, I can't imagine going into a dark cave without any natural light. Makes me shutter!! It will be fun for you to come back when it is drier and see the drastic difference.

  13. I think cave diving is at the top of my list for things I would NEVER do. Makes me uncomfortable just thinking about it. I still can't believe how flooded the springs are. Glad you're making the best of it and having fun adventures, even though you haven't been able to kayak.

  14. Too bad there's been so much flooding around where you want to go. Hope those flood waters go down so you can enjoy the entire trails, instead of having to take the long way around.

    Cave diving? Not for me, I don't even like having to do repairs under my motorhome. :cO

  15. The pictures those divers bring back make it look wonderful but it is extremely dangerous. Bummer that you are not getting to swim in the springs. you could at least stick a foot in or something :)

  16. I love caves, but, I wasn't born with gills this time around and don't go for diving. Snorkeling and swimming yes. Is very dangerous. Yet the flooded groves have a beautiful look about them.


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