Exploring One of Florida's "Best Kept Secrets"
As our canoe launched off of the muddy shores of the Holmes Creek into its murky waters, I felt like I was entering a new world in an era long gone. The creek curved through the dense and lush Florida forest of hardwoods, water oaks and cypress trees. Thick, moss covered branches criss crossed overhead and created an enchanting tree canopy that shaded the entire creek. Because of the recent rain, the browns of the tree trunks and forest floor were more of a black and the greens were lush and vibrant. Spider lilies dotting the shore only added to the feeling that we were in a different world entirely. As my husband and I paddled, our daughter held on to the boat sides at the front of the canoe, silently taking it all in.
After 5 minutes of peaceful paddling, we spotted what we had been looking for. A neon green circle painted on a cypress trunk, indicating we needed to take a right turn up the side creek to reach our destination. The width of the side creek was twice that of Holmes and the sun was shining bright. Off in the distance, we could see where we were heading and we paddled a little faster.
From a few yards away, we could already see that the waters of Cypress Spring were strikingly different that those of the brown and murky creek. As our canoe glided closer to the spring, suddenly we could see completely through the now crystal clear water below us to the sandy creek bottom. Suddenly, the creek bottom dropped and we were paddling over the actual spring. We peered over the side to see deep down into the spring head. The water was so intensely clear and the aqau and turquoise colors were so vibrant that at first, it was hard to believe what were were looking at was real. As we gazed over the sides of your boat, we saw an underwater world made of large, algae covered rock formations riddled with cracks and dark craveses, mixed with fallen tree trunks and large branches that cross from one side of the spring to the other. Schools of fish could clearly be seen swimming through the cool waters, darting in and out of the submerged branches. In the center on the water surface, the water bubbled up for the spring far below. It was an incredible sight to see.
I first heard about Cypress Spring through Pinterest, of all places. I spotted a picture of a magical looking place only to discover it was a 1.5 hour drive from town. After much digging, I discovered that it can only be accessed via boat, which actually added an element of adventure to the whole thing. At one time, it could be accessed by driving to the property until Nestle purchased the land in 2002 so they could bottle the spring’s water (I’ll save that rant for another day). There are a number of boat rental companies along the Holmes Creek and we went with Old Cypress Canoe Rental, who shuttled us up creek with our boat.
After exploring the creek from above, we decided to find a place along the spring shore to park our canoe so we could put on some snorkeling gear and explore from within. There are a number of spots along the spring with sandy shores and even some hidden in the cypress knees that offered plenty of shade. A few yards from the spring, there is a fence marking private property but that’s about as much of Nestle’s presence that you will see while there. Surrounding most of the spring is dense forest and swamps. You truly feel like you are out in the middle of no where. We were able to spend a few hours at the spring exploring, swimming, snorkeling, picnicing and relaxing. Other families were enjoying the spring as well and it was fun to watch those with enough gusto brave the rope swing, something I am determined to muster up enough courage to do next time we visit.
The trip down stream back to Old Cypress Canoe Rental was going to be a leisurely 1.5 hour paddle so we packed up before we were completely exhausted, knowing we had a little trek ahead of us. Before heading out, we circled the spring a few more times to just soak in the sights. The memory of that incredibly, stunningly gorgeous spring surrounded by ancient cypress trees and tucked deep in the Florida wilderness is one I will carry with me all my life. Before we had even left, I was already looking forward to our next visit to this amazing place so close to home.