Sunday, March 13, 2016

Worthington Springs

Florida’s springs have long been my favorite feature of this state. In the late 1800s and early 1900s tourists flocked to Florida, not to vacation on its beaches, but to bask in the state’s pristine springs. Unfortunately, Florida’s delicate ecosystem has been overwhelmed by the exponential growth of its human population, and the state’s springs are threatened. Water flow from many has decreased over the years, while others, such as the original High Springs, have essentially stopped flowing altogether.

There is a small community in north Florida called Worthington Springs, a sleepy community roughly twenty miles north of Gainesville, just north of the Santa Fe River, with a population just under two-hundred. There’s not much there, and unless you live there or have friends or family in Worthington Spring, you would doubtless have little reason to check it out.

The modern day town of Worthington Springs

Yet at one time this tiny town had a thriving tourism business centered around the spring which gave the community its name. The spring was located on the northern bank of the Santa Fe, and – as with Suwannee Springs – it was claimed that bathing in its mineral-rich water would yield various health benefits. Tourist facilities for the spring included a hotel, recreation hall, dancing pavilion, and bathhouse. In 1906 the springhead was walled off with concrete, enabling the waters to be funneled into a brand new 90’x50’ concrete swimming pool.

The following photos are on display at the entrance
to the Chastain-Seay Park in Worthington Springs:

Caption: Dancing Pavilion and Bathouse, Worthington Springs, Fla. Famous for its cures of rheumatism, indigestion, and kidney troubles.

This one was labeled 'cooling off at the pool'

Bath House

Summer & Winter Resort, Hotel Worthington, Worthington Springs, Fla.

Unfortunately, by the middle of the twentieth century the spring’s output began to drastically decrease to nothing but a trickle. While the former resort and spring area were turned into the Chastain-Seay community park with boardwalks, picnic tables, and camping areas back in 2002, although nothing remains of either the resort structures or the springs itself. I drove over to the Chastain-Seay Park last week, hoping to find remnants of either the spring or any of the tourist facilities. I located remains of two different foundations, but nothing else. The closest thing resembling a walled off springhead was a fenced in retention pond with a drainage pipe flowing into it. It was close to one of the foundations I had located, and it had a low concrete wall at one end; it seemed possible – if horribly depressing – that the former springhead could have been turned into a retention pond.

The following pictures were taken at the Chastain-Seay Park during the first week of March 2016. I was the only person at the park when I took these.

stagnant water

One of many boardwalks

Foundation and fireplace

Remains of a foundation and wall

Fenced in retention pond with low concrete wall at one end

Closer look at the low concrete wall.
(There was a weak flow of water from this point when I was there.)

Remains of wall/foundation in proximity to fenced in area around the retention pond.

Remains of wall/foundation in proximity to fenced in area around the retention pond.

I got home, and began writing up this blog post. I had done some research about Worthington Springs before heading over there, but I found a website with information about the springs after I returned home that I hadn’t looked at previously, which had a little more information about the location of the springs. The website contained a report from the Florida Department of Natural Resources on the springs of Florida published in 1978, although the information it contained about Worthington Springs within the report came from 1972.

If the roads in the area are the same as the roads which existed in the 1970s, then the retention pond is not the location of the former spring. Of course, this also meant that even though I had walked close to the area described and was fairly certain that nothing like this was there, I had not been to the exact location. I decided to go back and look again, although I wasn’t able to get back there until this morning. I re-scoured the park, looking for any signs of the pool, but other than what looked like a beaver dam, I found no evidence of it or the spring.

The following photos were taken at the Chastain-Seay Park on March 13, 2016. There were a whopping four other people in the park when I was there.

Santa Fe River

This stagnant area was located 400 feet west of the end of the road that currently parallels the highway; however, there is no visible evidence of a spring at this location.

Possible beaver dam


  1. This link will answer the question of the whereabouts of the spring, and pool. Hint, it was under your feet the whole time!lol enjoy, and happy hunting

    1. Thank you for sharing! I had a feeling the old spring was located in that fenced in area, but I never would have guessed that the swimming pool had been where the parking lot is today!

  2. Great write-up. I went out there today hoping to see some signs of the old hotel until I later read about its fate as well as the rest of the park's. Looks like Kevin's article has dashed all hopes, hah. It's a nice little retreat that's a very short drive from Gainesville - will probably use its resources more when it's not so stinkin' hot out.

  3. Is camping allowed?
    I occasionally visit Gainesville (from the north) and always have a rest stop at W/S park if it is open; have always wondered if I could spend a night or few...

    1. the park closes at sunset.

    2. Yes! Camping is allowed. Very few people know this however and it is underused. The gates close at sunset and open at sunrise, but camping is availible. You speak to someone at the community center almost right next door. There are water spouts and grills in the area near the pavillions, and water near the campsites as well as bathrooms.

      While the location was wiped of its firmer glory, it is still a beautiful site. There is a big pool of stagnant water in one site, but the banks of the Santafe River are still a popular spot for finding shark teeth and for locals to bring their kids to play. The water levels were low for a while, and nobody expects anyone to swim in the stagnant pool of yuck that is there. The place is great for nature walks and if you love to see turtles. If you follow the trails along the river it widens out quite a bit. Ive never seen the boat ramp with less than three vehicals parked there and someone is always fishing off the viewing dock. There is a huge lawn where kids sometimes play ball or with a frizbee, and two small playgrounds on the parkgrounds. The history may have been burried, but it's still a great park. Worthington Springs is mostly ignored without the springs here anymore. With the tiny population, most of them working out of town and we dont even have a school here, the park isnt as popular as it could be. There never seems to be a pattern to when it has more people. I go one day and I could be the only person in the park... I go another and there's several families at the playgrounds, running on the lawn by the pavilions and someone is cooking at one of the grills. The next day the only other person is the older gentalman in a floppy hat who's fishing all by himself. It's no Depot park for sure, nor is it a historical wonderland like it could have been, but it is a wonderful place to take your family for a day out or to read quietly by the river on a sunwarmed bench, watching turtles push eachother off a log.

  4. This is a wonderful writeup! Great pictures too! I'm sorry there wasnt much information to be found about the headspring or the history on site. That was one of the first things I looked for too!

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  9. The entire park was under water when the Santa Fe river overflowed in March-April 2018. The park was closed for a while, but as soon as the gate opened, I was there with my camera - my dogs had a blast running through the water of the still-flooded park.