Today I met up with Jerry Murphy at Cave Excursions East and headed to Hart Springs. The cost is currently $2 for a guide, and $20 for the diver being guided. You can find more information on the guide system and current access policies here.
The descent reminds you a lot of Devil’s Ear, except smaller and higher flow, but a water house style fissure crack all the same. Once at the bottom, the cave levels out just past 20ft deep and cuts towards the bridge in my photo I’ll post below. The tunnel is reasonably large, but not humongous. You can’t stretch your feet just yet, and it’s still ferocious flow that made me miss the comparatively weak flow experienced at Ginnie and JB. For about 400ft, it’s a challenge to find handholds that are solid enough that you won’t break the cave, so be careful. Fortunately having a guide who’s been there often, I could just follow his lead.
I’m starting a new paragraph because after 400ft the cave changes. You get beyond “Big Hart” and the flow tremendously decreases while the cave opens up. From here on out, you’re going to run a 70ft profile and the cave “squirrel tracks” become substantially less noticeable. One interesting aspect of Hart is that there’s several side tunnels that appear almost as big as the main line part of the tunnel. Most caves in the area have one large tunnel and smaller offshoots. Also, if you carefully watch the floor, you’ll notice lots and lots of extremely interesting formations just sitting on the ground in the clay.
Around 1000ft of penetration, you’ll encounter double arrows, which means you’re half way to “Black Lagoon”, which will remain a guided system. From here until you pass under the lagoon, you’ll notice the sides of the cave have lots of shelves and cracks in the ceiling that make you wonder how many small offshoots can one cave have?
About 200ft short of Black Lagoon, I hit my turn pressure, and we let the flow carry us some 1800ft back to the entrance, with a rare fin kick thrown in to steer our bodies. Opon grabbing our deco bottles, we were greeted with that annoying entrance again, but unlike Devil’s Ear, mother nature forgot to install a deco log at 20ft!
After getting to bed late and then having to get up early, I drag myself out of bed, throw the gear in the car, and head to subway for a breakfast sandwich. Kevin meets me there, and then we head over to the spring. Kevin had rented a house near this place, and knew several land owners, so gaining access wasn’t as difficult as one would imagine.
A few weeks back, the surface visibility wasn’t stellar, and to be honest, it really hasn’t improved much since then, even with other low flow systems that are near the river (like Peacock Springs) now clearing. Even with poor viz, we decided to get into the system and at least do a familiarization dive.
The line was still run out into open water, so no primary was needed, although we did bring a primary just in case any lines were in need of repair. The first 400ft of this cave doesn’t have knotted line in it, however the lines after that are knotted. Fortunately we didn’t come across any broken line, however the line was buried and had gone limp in several places, so we tied a knot to take up the slack, or tied off again when we could.
Our total dive time was under 1hr, with the majority of it spent at 100ft. We got about 800-1000ft into the system I would guess, taking the right side of each T. At the first T, the left side is smaller and shorter than the right, but they both meet up again at the second T, where we continued on into the cave.
Here’s a few videos, and then a gallery-
(we both have 21w HID’s in this one, for perspective)
Went with Allen and Dr Craiger around Wakulla Springs Road and found this Gem on the roadside (ok, I didn’t find it, but I would get my throat cut if I posted the exact location heh). This is a site where you have to park on the public right of way, and walk up the slough to the spring vent. I would advise that you attach a weight to a string and throw it into the cave when you first get there, as the basin will get mucky and quickly turn to zero viz, which will cause you to spend 10-15 minutes just finding the cave entry. This cave has to be the most beautiful system I’ve ever seen, as it’s protected by an alligator 90% of the time.