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Dive Review of Vortex Springs in
The Continental USA/Vortex and Morrison Spgs, FL

October, 2007, an Instant Reader Report by Mort Rolleston, DC, US
Sr. Reviewer   (11 reports)
Report Number 3777
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
101-250 dives
Where else diving
Bonaire, Nassau, Ko Samui Thailand, Great Barrier Reef, Key Largo, Catalina
CA, Monterey, western Puerto Rico, wrecks off NC and in St Lawrence River
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

calm, noCurrents  
Water Temp
67   to 67    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
50   to 200    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  1 stars
Tropical Fish
1 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
1 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
Boat Facilities
Overall rating for UWP's  
Shore Facilities  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  
5 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars   
3 stars    
As mentioned in another entry, while rough seas kept the Pensacola area
dive boats at the dock for a couple of days, I decided to explore a couple
of springs about a 90 minute drive away near Ponce de Leon:   Vortex
Springs and Morrison Springs. 

In the morning, I went to Vortex Springs.  Vortex is a rather developed
resort with a large dive shop specializing in dive training as well as
swimming, camping, cabins, water slides, paddleboats, and canoeing (mostly
downstream).  Fortunately, the diving area around the spring itself appears
to be separate from the other water activities and crowds (and apparently
most of the non-diving crowd frequents in the summer while the divers
frequent during the winter when offshore diving is often too rough). 
However, the spring itself is quite small (maybe 50 or so yards by 50
yards?), which could get pretty crowded on a busy day.  Fortunately, I was
the only diver there and Vortex was very gracious to allow me to dive with
one of their staff as he did some maintenance on what appeared to be
filters.   Speaking of which, the water is normally crystal clear as most
Florida springs are.  However, due to the severe drought, which greatly
reduced the water flow and allowed algae growth, the visibility was fairly
cloudy when I was there  though at probably 50 feet, it was still much
better than my local quarry.  The spring is stocked with the large (2-3
feet), colorful Japanese carp (one very photogenic one made over a dozen
very close passes) as well as the usually inquisitive and sociable
bluegills.  The mouth of the cave had a couple of small freshwater eels. 
The spring also has Redhorse Suckers, bass, gar, and catfish, though I did
not see any.  As with most, the spring comes out of a huge hole with rock
walls that starts at maybe 30 feet and bottoms out at about 60 feet. 
According to the website, cave divers can penetrate into the main cave at
the bottom of this hole (maybe 10 feet wide at the mouth?) a few hundred
feet to a depth of about 115 feet (I didnt venture past where I could see
the entrance).  Most of the rest of the spring is 20-25 feet deep with an
artificial cave and various dive platforms for training purposes.  The
water was a comfortable 67 degrees and stays that way all year.  My overall
impression:  a great beginner training site and a fun way to kill a
morning, but perhaps a bit too developed.   I could see this place being
way too crowded during their peak season.

In the afternoon, I caught up with a group who was on the same cancelled
dive boat out of Pensacola I was at Morrison Springs.  While only 10-15
miles away from Vortex, Morrison was worlds apart in most every other way. 
It is part of an isolated, beautiful state park surrounded by absolutely no
development or facilities beyond an isolated dirt road that ends at its
shore.   Its shoreline was lined with beautiful cypress trees and its water
was the clearest Ive ever seen (we are talking hundreds of feet!).   Most
of the spring, which obviously created a large stream that apparently runs
several miles before dumping into a larger river, is very shallow (10-15
feet) and may be 50 yards or so wide.   In the middle is a pretty large
depression somewhat like an oil funnel that ends in a rather large hole
perhaps 30 feet wide with rock walls that drop to about 50 feet.  On the
side of the hole is a fairly large cavern that is maybe 50 feet long.  At
the bottom is a fairly narrow opening into the spring itself that goes
straight down and kicks out a fairly stiff current.   Most of the group
penetrated inside and reported a very large cavern just inside the
entrance.  After exploring the hole and cavern edges, I spent most of the
dive along the springs edges exploring under the cypress tree knobs
(stunning beautiful with the view looking up at the trees and the bright
sunlight).  Only disappointment was the lack of fish life.  I did see a
large pike that I hung out with for a while in a staring contest, some
small brim-like fish, and a couple of freshwater eels in the cavern, but
that was about it.  Like Vortex, the water is 67 degrees year around.  All
in all, an easy, rather enjoyable dive in the sense of natural beauty and
seemingly endless visibility.  If you dive here, rent any equipment before
you get there (Vortex Springs is the nearest dive shop  I rented tanks in
Pensacola).   While I stayed in Pensacola, Vortex does have cabins to rent
and there is a motel nearby along I-10.

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