We writers spend a lot of time locked in our writing caves, sipping coffee and eavesdropping in coffee shops, or wherever our preferred writing locale is. But sometimes we just want to get away—for a day, a weekend, a week, or, if we’re lucky enough, a month.
After finishing my tenth book, I needed a break, and spending time in nature replenishes my well. Here in North Central Florida, state parks, nature reserves, rivers, springs, and lakes surround us, all within easy driving distance. And yet, I’m ashamed to say, I’ve only been to a handful.
This past weekend, Hubby and I did mark one off our list—O’Leno State Park. There are two fascinating aspects of this particular park:
- It was one of the parks developed in the 1930’s by Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps; and
- The Santa Fe River disappears underground before emerging again three miles away.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was one of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, and the most popular. A voluntary public relief program during the Great Depression for young unemployed, unmarried men, the CCC employed some 3 million young men. Under the program, they received shelter, clothing, food, and a wage. O’Leno State Park, one of Florida’s first state parks, features an information center all about the corps.
North Central Florida is known for its karst landscape, which features underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. I’m sure you’ve seen news stories about sinkholes swallowing cars and homes. Yep, that’s Florida. The Santa Fe River runs through this karst region for about 75 miles across North Central Florida. Three miles of that is underground. I’ve canoed and kayaked the river many times, and I grew up swimming, boating, and skiing in its headwaters—Lake Santa Fe, but I’d never seen what’s called the “River Sink.”
Along the 4-mile hike to the River Sink we passed smaller “sinks” where the ground over
the underground river gave way, revealing the dark waters of the river below. Near the end of our hike, Hubby and I finally came upon the River Sink where the slow-moving tannic Santa Fe drops underground. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I saw was definitely not it. The river just appears to end, a little like a neighborhood street with cul-de-sac. The sign near the sink said 900 million gallons of water flow into the sink every day!
Currently, the water level in the river is low due to lack of rain in the area, however, when the water level is high, the water swirls in a counter clockwise direction. The higher the water levels, the faster the swirl. During times of flooding, like following Hurricane Irma in 2017 when the river hit record flood levels, the underground system cannot hold all of the water, and the river again flows over land along the ancient riverbed. #FascinatingFlorida
Next on the local bucket list is River Rise State Park, where the Santa Fe River once again emerges above ground.
What do you like to do when you need a break from your writing?