Trip to Gourdneck Springs
Lake Apopka Cave/Sink January 2017

GourdNeck Cave/Apopka Spring is located in a small cove in the southwest side of Lake Apopka, and is accessible only by boat.

Lake Apopka has experienced dramatic changes in its environmental health over the past century. A once plentiful and productive lake (the second largest lake in Florida), was a renowned fishing paradise where anglers from all over the world came hoping to land a trophy bass. The clear, pristine lake was home to 29 fish camps on its 40 miles of shoreline.

This changed, starting in 1941, with the establishment of 20,000 acres of vegetable muck farms. The filtering marshes on the north shores were drained to make room for the farms. Massive quantities of nutrients were pumped into the lake from the farms, municipal sewage, and effluent from citrus processing. The high nutrient loading encouraged widespread algae blooms, blocking sunlight and choking productive submerged plants and causing a decline in game fish populations. Clean up measures failed. Eventually, only undesirable fish feeding on the algae could survive in these extreme conditions.

The fish camps all closed and Lake Apopka became known as the most polluted large lake in Florida. This condition has endured for more than 40 years. In 1991, The Friends of Lake Apopka (FOLA) organized, advocating the restoration of the lake. Restoration is anticipated to be a slow, complicated process. At the end of the decade of the 1990’s, measurement of water quality variables indicate the condition of the lake improved more than 30%. However, the unprecedented scale and complexity of the restoration will be challenges for years to come. Cumulative pesticide residues, unexplained bird fatalities, involvement of the Federal Government and urban development, are all part of the scientific, political and economic landscape of restoration.

There is at least one spring, Gourdneck Spring that discharges directly into Lake Apopka. The spring vent opening is at ~ 40 feet, and sometimes visible on the surface as a distinctive boil spilling out crystal clear spring water in the surrounding dark brown mucky lake water. The lake around the spring is surrounded by marsh and lowland swamp forest which homes lots of different types of birds.

An extensive (mainly sidemount) underwater cave system has been mapped in Gourdneck/Apopka spring.

TJ, Teddy, Tim, Carol & Denise set off on their adventure to cave scuba dive there this week. Tim's pontoon boat made it very handy for loading all the scuba gear Lake Apopka very shallow overall (only a couple of feet), and still very dark looking, despite recent restoration efforts.

The lake water level is high right now, with lake water down to a depth of ~ 50 feet, but the spring is pumping hard still.