No place in the world can claim such a concentration of freshwater springs in a comparably sized area as Florida, and the northern part of the Sunshine State—most definitely including the Panhandle—is the epicenter for these groundwater outlets. One of Northwest Florida’s most stunning is Morrison Springs in Walton County, situated just a stone’s throw from Ponce de Leon.
Established as a 161-acre county park in 2004, Morrison Springs Park is coveted not only by swimmers and snorkelers but also by scuba divers: Indeed, it’s one of the region’s most popular diving holes given its depth and scenery. Three bedrock conduits feed close to 50 million gallons of cold aquifer water into the 250-foot-wide Morrison Springs pool each day. (Walton County reports that as many as 70 million daily gallons may sometimes surge out of the cavities, which would make this normally second-magnitude spring occasionally qualify for temporary first-magnitude honors.)
The most significant of these aquifer vents extends some 300 feet deep and links to mysterious flooded caverns, the extent of which aren’t exactly known.
Divers may be drawn to the enigmatic “deeps” of the Morrison Springs pool, but it’s pretty darn amazing to admire from a topside perspective as well. Stroll the nearly 600 feet of boardwalk running along the springs to marvel at the hulking bald-cypresses edging it. These huge swamp and bottomland conifers—among the few in the world to shed their needles in winter—paint a picture of old, wild Florida here and really amp up the photogenic qualities of this special spot.
The waters of Morrison Springs run into the great Choctawhatchee River, which accepts the outflow of more than a dozen such springs along its course.
Morrison Springs County Park includes a floating diving dock as well as a boat ramp associated with more than 20 parking/staging spaces for trailers. The park also includes a picnic pavilion, restrooms, and shower facilities.
Open from sunrise to sunset, Morrison Springs County Park is free to enjoy and easily reached off Interstate-10. It makes a fantastic combo with Ponce de Leon Springs State Park to the near north, which spotlights another amazing water feature and much-loved swimming hole that feeds into the blackwater Choctawhatchee tributary of Sandy Creek. Consider a double-header of a spring-appreciation day on the Panhandle!
-If you want to swim and count yourself on the thin-blooded side of the spectrum, visit Morrison Springs on one of those hot, sunny, and sultry Florida Panhandle days: At about 65 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, these waters can feel quite chilly in cooler conditions.
-Walton County updates a measure of the water clarity at Morrison Springs on the park’s official website on a scale of 1 (crystal-clear) to 5 (murky)—a great resource if you’re planning a snorkeling or diving visit here. Heavy rainfall can muddy up the pool and significantly diminish underwater visibility, which otherwise–as is typical of spring-fed lakes and ponds—tends to be excellent.