Rising at Lake Santa Fe in northeastern Alachua County, the Santa Fe River meanders westward for 75 miles before it joins the Suwanee River in Suwannee County. The Santa Fe is fed by dozens of springs and several tributary rivers and creeks, including the Ichetucknee River and the New River. A number of the springs, including Gilchrist Blue Springs, Rum Island Springs, and Poe Springs, are now part of state or local parks, while most of the 6-mile run of the Ichetucknee River, also spring fed, is part of Ichetucknee Springs State Park. The Ginnie Springs complex, which includes over a dozen individual springs that flow into the Santa Fe, is part of a popular privately owned campground, while other springs are on private property or accessible only from the water. All together, the various springs and tributaries of the Santa Fe make up one of the biggest collections of outdoors amenities in Florida.
The Santa Fe River system faces challenges from growing residential, agricultural and commercial uses, which withdraw water from the aquifer, reduce the springs’ output, and introduce fertilizers and other pollution into the water. A current dispute has pitted locals against food company Nestlé, which is seeking a permit to withdraw over 1 million gallons from Ginnie Springs per day. Activists are pursuing new solutions to meet these challenges and keep the area a prime spot for swimming, tubing, boating, scuba diving and more.
The natural beauty of the Santa Fe is on full display from above. At its best, the river system represents the ideal of that part of natural Florida that natives love and tourists rarely see. Jacksonville photographer Erik Hamilton recently took his camera drone out for a look at the Santa Fe in all its glory.
The Santa Fe River.
Next page: More pictures of the Santa Fe River.