Friday, January 8, 2016

The Original High Springs

When I was looking at real estate in and around High Springs (where I did, eventually, purchase a home back in 2014), I remember having a conversation with my mother in which we mused about the reason why High Springs was named High Springs. We thought the name was a bit odd, as it wasn’t as if there were a spring in the center of town or anything. However, we decided that perhaps the name probably came from the high quantity of springs in the near vicinity of the town; Poe, Gilchrist Blue, Ginnie, and Rum Island springs are all short drives from High Springs, and many other springs are accessible via the nearby Santa Fe River. This is apparently the etymology of the town’s name that many people in North Florida believe, although it turns out that it is not, in fact, correct.

While doing research for my various High Springs railroad posts, I learned that there had indeed once been a spring in High Springs proper. According to the Architectural and Historical Survey of High Springs, Florida, published in 1990, “The spring that gives High Springs its name is located a mile northeast of the current center of town, in what is now a pleasant residential suburb. Its steady flow of water attracted settlers in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and the first group of buildings – a school, a few stores, and several homes – was built here. The railroad tapped this spring and diverted its flow, via a long pipe, to the site chosen for the railroad shops.” As I continued to search for more information on the railyard in High Springs, I came across several other mentions of a spring on top of a hill north of town giving rise to the town’s name… but where had the spring been?

I got my answer when JOM and I visited the High Springs Historical Museum to learn more about the railroad back in the fall. We were told where exactly this ‘hill north of town’ was located, that there were remains of the springhouse, and that the spring itself even still flowed. Sort of. In a bit of a trickle. We also learned that there were plans being discussed to clean the area up and turn it into a park – perhaps even to restore the springs – although nothing had been decided.

Due to busy schedules and plans to explore other places, I didn’t get a chance to follow the directions I’d been given in search of the old springs until yesterday. And as JOM is off cycling around Australia, I went hunting for it by myself. The directions I’d been given led me up a hill and to a trail entering a wooded area northeast of downtown High Springs, and while they weren’t too specific for once I reached said wooded area, I vaguely remembered being told that the area was marked off with caution tape. Shortly after entering the woods, I began to come across the remains of structures: foundations, collapsing remains of wooden walls, and concrete structures. Initially I thought I might have found the old springhouse… until I noticed the old tobacco barn behind it. That didn’t seem to fit what I was looking for. Additionally, I couldn’t find anything that resembled a spring – not even a trickle.

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Foundations of something

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More foundations; tobacco barn in the distance

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Collapsing wooden structure

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The tobacco drying barn told me I was looking in the wrong place.

And so I continued on, following the trail until in the distance I saw what looked like yellow caution tape tied around a tree:

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Er. That’s caution tape, right?

Looking into the woods, I could see another band of yellow tape around another tree, and then farther into the woods, yet another. Following a Hansel and Gretel breadcrumb trail of police-line-do-not-cross tape into the forest all by your lonesome is surely a good idea. I figured either this was the caution tape that I thought I remembered hearing about, or I’d find myself arrested for trampling over a murder scene. As there hadn’t been any recent murders in the area (to my knowledge anyway), I figured I had to be on the right track. Safety first!

The pieces of yellow tape did indeed lead me to the spring – or what was left of it – and I would never have found it without them. When I finally reached the last piece of yellow tape in the trail, I could see what looked like a round clearing in the woods. It was impossible to get a photograph that showed what I could discern: a near perfect circle of slightly depressed land covered in weeds and small trees, surrounded by much older trees. Venturing into the depressed circle, I could tell that this had indeed once been the spring head pool. Around the edges older oaks leaned over what would have once been water. The ‘pool’ itself was nothing but mud – wet enough to show that water was still seeping to the surface, but dry(ish) enough to walk across, although my shoes definitely sunk into the mud in spots.

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What remains of what would have been the spring's pool

On one end of the former ‘pool’ the remains of a dam and pipe could be seen… and flowing through it and down an old creek bed was the trickle of water I had been told to expect.

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Remains of the dam. The round object in the lower left quadrant is a pipe.

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The stream, trickling east from the dam/pool

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Looking back towards the spring from downstream; the dam is at the top of the hill.

On the opposite side of the ‘pool’ I found three large metal bolts extending inward from the ‘pool’ wall. I've no idea what their purpose would have been.

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The complete set of photos taken on my explorations in search of the original High Springs Spring can be seen HERE.

According to the Alachua County Property Appraiser’s website, the piece of land upon which what remains of the spring sits belongs to the City of High Springs, which would certainly simplify the process of turning it into a city park. Of course, whether or not this actually comes to fruition definitely remains to be seen. And restoration of the spring itself? I do not know if such a thing would be possible, although if it were, that would indeed be lovely.


  1. I'm guessing the bolts were once part of a retaining wall, probably wood. The bolt likely connected the wall to a buried "deadman".

    1. That does seem likely. The bolts were the only visible evidence of human intervention on that side of the spring pool.

  2. This is great! Thanks so much for the description and the photos.

  3. I have lived here 30 years and have never known this. I would love to explore this place with my family!

  4. I have lived here 30 years and have never known this. I would love to explore this place with my family!

  5. I had heard there was a High Springs namesake spring but someone told me it was by the museum. This makes more sense.

  6. As a kid I use to play in the old reservoir. We would get stuck, on purpose, in the mud.. I remember getting buried up to my knees..

  7. Can we get a better description of the location? We would like to explore that area, too. Wonderful pictures - thank you for sharing them.

  8. What a nice article! I'm passing it on to friends who live there.

  9. Thanks for a great post! It inspired us to go explore it firsthand last weekend. Roger at the museum was very helpful to explain the location and how to get there. I did record the coordinates as 29' 49.889 N -82'35.365 W

  10. You wrote it well. I really like such things.


  11. That would be why the school next to it was originally called Spring Hill Elementary. In the 80's the spring flowed back towards the school and dissipated in the woods just before reaching the racket ball courts.

  12. Interesting information. Thanks for time and effort.