Salt Springs is a 2nd magnitude spring that derives its name from its saline waters. The spring pool measures about 190 feet by 130 feet, with spring flow emerging from four vents in the limestone rock floor of the pool. Prominent, gentle boils are usually observed at the water's surface over the vents. Limestone and sand are on the pool bottom near the vents, with the rest of the bottom covered with aquatic grasses. The north, west, and south sides of the pool are surrounded by a concrete wall which rises about 5 feet above the surface of the pool. The wall is topped by a concrete railing and edged by a 4-foot-wide concrete walkway. From the pool, water flows southeast about 4 miles down a broad run to discharge into the northwest corner of Lake George. The spring is part of the USDA Forest Service's Salt Springs Recreation Area.
The recreation area is used for swimming, snorkeling, fishing, and boating. Water in the pool is very clear, blue, and is salty, the result of the water rising to the surface through ancient salt deposits. In places in the pool, there is a halocline visual distortion effect of salt and fresh water mixing. Fish, including striped bass, mullet, and small fry are abundant. In addition, blue crab and needlefish may be seen. The crabs are most commonly observed in the deeper portions of the spring openings. The marine life was established at the site millennia ago when this portion of Florida was part of a shallow sea. When the land rose upward, the marine creatures remained at the site because of the salty flow from the spring. The bottom has exposed limestone, small rocks, and sand as well as aquatic vegetation. There is exotic hydrilla in the pool. The pool was original circular, as described by William Bartram after visiting the spring in 1773 (see below). Crowds can stir up the water, reducing visibility. The spring run is lined with tall reeds and flows about four miles to Lake George, part of the chain of lakes on the St. Johns River.
The spring is a major recreation area in the Ocala National Forest and offers camping (106 RV sites and 54 tent sites), swimming, canoeing, fishing, rest rooms, concessions, a boat ramp, marina, boat rentals, visitor center, picnic facilities, and showers. The facilities underwent a renovation/expansion in the late 1990s to accommodate larger crowds, including RVs.
Swimming is fine in the spring, but snorkeling and skin-diving are outstanding. One can stand on the exposed limestone directly over the spring vents/pits and dive right into them. Swimming through the water plants after fish is also a fun activity. Fishing is not allowed in the spring, but is allowed in the spring run. Boats and canoes can be rented at nearby Salt Springs Marina. The flow from a couple of the vents is very strong, and the skin-diver must take care to not be "blown" by the flow into nearby boulders with sharp points and edges.
About a mile south of the spring along SR 19 is the Salt Springs Trail, a 1.5-mile loop that passes through scrub and forest to a viewing point along the spring run (but not to the spring). An additional 4-mile trail connects the Salt Springs Recreation Area with the Florida National Scenic Trail.
Ocala National Forest Visitor Center 10863 E. Highway 40 Silver Springs, FL 34488