Article by ALICE MARY HERDEN
Buford Springs is nestled within the Chassahowitzka swamp with no easy access to it. It is possible that this spring is the second largest divable cavern after Wakulla and is just one of many natural springs found at Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) has current plans to reduce the impact on the wetlands and make this spring more accessible via a boardwalk. This spring is a popular dive site and has been for over ten years, but accessibility to the spring was a challenge. The only way to get to the spring was to hike through thick, uneven patches of mud that could range from one-to-four feet in depth.
“People were bringing in pallets and buckets of rocks so that they wouldn’t sink in the mud.” Wildlife Biologist Steve Brinkley said. “We are hoping with the boardwalk this will stop people from bringing stuff that we don't want into the swamp.”
The damage that was caused to the swamp’s ecosystem, including plant life and wildlife, by years of foot traffic will restore naturally in time. Installing a platform at the end of the boardwalk will stop future erosion by users climbing in and out of the springs from the outer banks.
The FWC prioritizes safety while balancing access, freedoms, and opportunities for the public to enjoy outdoor recreational opportunities and to ensure healthy populations of all native wildlife and their habitats on a statewide basis.
“The main reason for the boardwalk is, we want to provide access to everybody,” Brinkley said. “The boardwalk idea has been around for a while, and it’s one of our goals within our 10-year management plan.”
The trail off Three Bridges Road leads out of the Mesic Flatwoods into a hydric hammock. Once the 440-foot boardwalk is complete, it will give many visitors, avid birders, wildlife and nature photographers access that was not available before. Having this boardwalk is also an excellent educational opportunity to learn more about Florida's amazing ecosystems in the heart of the Chassahowitzka Swamp.
The access area to Buford Springs is currently closed during construction and FWC is proposing sometime in June to have the Buford Springs Boardwalk completed.
About Chassahowitzka WMA: The first land purchased for this property was made in 1985 from the Lykes Brothers and Turner Corporation as a part of Florida’s Conservation and Recreational Lands (CARL) program. This property has a rich history and served many purposes for various groups before being obtained by FWC.
More information about Chassahowitzka WMA visit their website at https://myfwc.com/recreation/lead/chassahowitzka/.
When visiting Chassahowitzka there is a $3 daily permit fee at the entrance into Chassahowitzka WMA.
Always respect and watch for wildlife as Chassahowitzka is home to many animals like the American alligator, white-tailed deer, fox, squirrel, gopher tortoise, a variety of reptiles including water moccasins, as well as over one hundred species of birds and when visiting leave no trace and do not litter.
Buford Springs is a location that is frequented by scuba divers. The FWC requires a no-cost permit to be completed and submitted to the Commission for every dive and diver. That permit can be found online at https://public.myfwc.com/CrossDOI/PermitMe/Menu.aspx. The FWC website states: A Chassahowitzka WMA SCUBA Diving Registration is required and must be on file with the FWC prior to SCUBA diving at Eagles Nest Sink or Buford Spring.
More information about Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission visit: https://myfwc.com/