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

Vortex Springs, Oct, 2007,

by Mort Rolleston, DC, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 11 reports). Report 3777.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 5 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments 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 didn’t 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 I’ve 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 spring’s 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.

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

Weather sunny Seas calm, noCurrents
Water Temp 67-67°F / 19-19°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 50-200 Ft/ 15-61 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions [Unspecified]
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 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 N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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