Delightful DeLeon Springs

DeLeon Springs-Cave entrance beneath boil.

Visitor’s center and store around the spring.

Basin overflow displays a picturesque waterfall.

Preparing map documentation for park records.

Cave exploration and pancakes…Both are yummy!

The target of dive operations today was DeLeon Springs. This spring is located in the town of DeLeon Springs, Florida about seven miles north of DeLand in the central part of the state. On site is a 170-foot semicircular pool surrounded by rolling sandy hills. Several walkways help gain access to the pool. From the pool is a short run that leads westward to a chain of three lakes –Spring Garden, Woodruff and Dexter, to the St. John’s River. The water flow comes from a spring located in the north central portion of the pool. A low boil is present above the chimney opening leading to the cave. A bathhouse and snack bar make spending the day here even more enjoyable. The current store and pancake house used to serve as a sugar mill in the 1920’s.

Upon arriving at DeLeon Springs we stopped at the ranger station to present our permit to dive. Preparations had been made ahead of time with the park so they would know our plan of operations.

First, we conducted a site assessment to familiarize ourselves with the area. After carrying tanks to the site and suiting up we then reviewed our dive plan. It was decided that Terrence would take the lead followed by Renee and Andrew. To our knowledge, no one has been diving in this cave for some time and we weren’t quite sure what to expect.

The basin area is quite large and sandy funneling down to a small opening at the bottom. After placing a primary tie-off we entered the cave one at a time. At the entrance the flow is quite intense and requires the use of both hands. Once inside the flow subsides dramatically. Piled at the bottom of the chimney are fossilized snail shells…hundreds of them. Immediately thereafter we noticed that the cave is…hairy. Actually, the cave appears to be almost entirely covered in various types of bacteria. The percolate (ceiling particulate disturbed by bubbles or activity) was severe and that caused visibility to be impaired. There is a fairly heavy line already placed that we left. Only slight adjustments were made in order to secure it more effectively. At about 120 feet into the cave the line took a sharp turn to the left where we descended to a grate with warning signs upon it. Once we assessed the condition of the tunnel on the other side we collected the data the park managers desired. The cave is certainly calling to us, but research protocols must be followed and we used restraint knowing that the opportunity to explore will be ours tomorrow. Instead we went back up to the turn and ran a reel in the other direction to see if there might be any leads this way. It seemed to not to go anywhere so we turned. However Andrew noticed an area off to the side where flow seemed to be emerging. The team noticed quite a bit of interesting water interactions that will have to be investigated tomorrow before any tentative conclusions can be drawn. We decided to exit the cave and discuss what options we had and communicate some of the interesting findings to the entire team.

On the surface we discussed the first phase of the dive and prepared for the next. We decided to go back and survey the line that is currently in the system and use that as a jumping off point for tomorrow’s dive. Since the cave is trending deeper we also thought that preparing our logistical picture to include significant decompression would be advised before proceeding. The survey data we collected today reveals about 150 feet of passage at a maximum depth of 60 feet.

After loading the truck and a wonderful pancake lunch at the park, we headed back to Orlando for gas fills. Tomorrow, we plan to go further and start the exploration phase of the dives into DeLeon Springs.

Dive Team
Andrew Pitkin
Renee Power
Terrence Tysall

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