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Springs of the Ecofina Creek

Pitt and Sylvan Springs on the Ecofina Creek
Pitt Spring on the Ecofina Creek
Located at 30.4327233 N, 85.5587404 W
Google Maps Plus Code DFJ3+XF Youngstown, Florida

Along Ecofina Creek in Washington and Bay counties there are 11 springs or spring groups comprised of 39 individual vents, most of them within a mile of State Road 20 (Hwy 20).  The entire area was heavily damaged by 2018's Hurricane Michael.  We recently visited to see what shape the parks and springs are in today along the Ecofina.
Ecofina Blue Spring
Ecofina Blue Spring
The park is currently closed due to hurricane damage.
It is a felony to entry by land without permission.
Located at 30.4532481 N, 85.5332046 W
Google Maps Plus Code FF3C+75 St. Andrews Bay, Florida
The Ecofinia emerges in Bay County at Deep Spring Park.  There is not much to see here.  The first interesting natural feature is several miles downstream at Devil's Hole Swallet.
Devil's Hole Swallet on the Ecofina Creek
Devil's Hole Swallet
30.489397 N, 85.5265738 W
Google Maps Plus Code FFVJ+77 St. Andrews Bay, Florida
Photo: Jason Davis
The recreation site is a 40-foot swallet sinkhole that connects to the Floridan Aquifer.  The most direct route to Devil's Hole is via Porter Pond Road, which is slightly west of the bridge at Hwy 20 where it crosses Ecofina Creek.  Once on Porter Pond, follow the signs to locate Devil's Hole approximately 7 miles north of SR 20.  The Florida National Scenic Trail passes just to the west of Devil's Hole.  There are several other areas where you can see the creek nearby including Walsingham Park, Seashell Recreation Area, Longleaf Recreation Area, and Walsingham Camp Recreation Area.
Springs of the Ecofina Creek Map
We had to climb over fallen trees to reach this graphic sign showing the approximate location of all the springs along the Econfina Creek.  The sign is located in a permanently closed area of Williford Spring near the damaged canoe dock.
Springs of the Ecofina Creek Map 2
Heading south from Devil's Hole the creek is virtually impassable but if you're hearty you can find Tupelo Spring, Palm Springs, Glowing Spring, Bathtub Spring, Blue Springs, Barking Spring, Strickland Springs and then the Livery.  The larger springs are clustered south of the livery however some are not accessible due to hurricane debris (piles of downed trees).
Hurricane Michael destruction one year later along Ecofina Creek
A year after Hurricane Michael the forests along the Ecofina Creek look like the hurricane struck yesterday. There is not much left in places, but broken trees.
The northern portions of the creek are difficult to navigate with many logjams and shallow water. Most paddlers opt to put in at the Econfina Livery as the livery offers the option of pick up and return at the take out at SR 388 bridge. They also have kayaks and canoes available for rent.  
Ecofina Creek Canoe Livery
Ecofina Creek Canoe Livery
directly adjacent to Williford Spring gates
However, the livery requires that one complete the entire 6 mile trek to SR 388 bridge which can take many hours.  On this day we chose instead to tag along with a team from the Northwest Florida Water Management District and view the springs from land.  The temperature was near 100° with high humidities so we thought it unlikely we could weather the long trek down the Ecofina
Williford Spring on the Ecofina Creek
Williford Spring is the largest easily accessible spring on the Ecofina today.  It is only partially open and only on weekends.  The park remains heavily damaged (below) from 2018's Hurricane Michael.  A year later huge trees still block the boardwalks to the creek.  The forest here was mostly obliterated.
Hurricane Michael Damage at Williford Spring one year laterThe Econfina Creek is largely preserved and managed by the Northwest Florida Water Management District, and part of the much larger 41,000 acre Econfina Creek Water Management Recreation Area. The Recreation Area offers camping, hiking along the Florida Scenic Trail, boating, fishing and equestrian trails along with campsites and recreational parks.
Ecofina Creek north of Panama City, Florida
Ecofina Creek north of Williford Spring
and the Econfina Creek Canoe Livery
near Stickland Springs.

There are several places to launch a canoe or kayak:

• Scott’s Bridge – From US 231 four miles north of Fountain, take Scott’s Road west four miles to bridge. (This is the upper portion of the creek and for skilled paddlers only as there are many portages due to log jams)Washington and Bay counties.
Beautiful Williford Spring on the Ecofina Creek
Williford Spring
facing south, August 2019, a huge logjam dams the spring in the distance, part of the Hurricane Michael damage yet to be repaired.
• Walsingham Bridge – From SR 20 turn north on Strickland Road which becomes Porter Pond Road. There is a fence line on the right side of the road. Follow the fence line and make the two right turns where the fence turns. Take Washington Bridge Road to the bridge.
Hurricane Michael damage at Williford Springs, a year later
Hurricane Michael damage at Williford Spring,
a year after the hurricane

• Econfina Canoe Livery – One mile north of SR 20 on Strickland Road. Eight miles east of Hwy. 77, offers both canoes and kayaks for rent along with a shuttle back to your vehicle after your paddle. Call 850-722-9032 for more information, or go to: http://canoeeconfinacreek.net/
Blue Springs Recreation Area close along the Ecofina Creek
Serious No Trespassing signs at Ecofina Blue Spring, Fall 2019

• SR 20 Bridge – (1 mile) limited parking.
Ecofina Creek
The Ecofina Creek near as seen from the Hwy 20 bridge

• SR 388 Bridge – (6 miles)
Pitt Spring, locked most of the time, along the Ecofina Creek
Most people find locked gates at Pitt, Sylvan, and Williford Springs
The main parks on the Ecofina—Williford Spring, Pitt and Sylvan Springs—are open only on weekends since the devastating 2018 hurricane.  We watched many visitors turned away at the parks gates.  The areas are all under reconstruction since the hurricane destroyed pavilions, boardwalks, and docks.  Ecofina Blue Spring remains completely closed and will likely be so-closed for a number of years.
Swimmers find their way into Pitt Spring despite the area being closed, fall 2019
To access the largest spring group on the Ecofina—Gainer Springs, known by locals as "Emerald Springs"—you either have to canoe/kayak or wade the creek from the Hwy 20 bridge or from the Ecofina Livery.  Gainer Springs are surrounded by private property and one is not allowed to access the springs by land.  The 2004 survey of the Springs of the Ecofina Creek found 13 vents or individual springs in the Gainer Spring Group.
A man called 'Loco' beside the SR 388 Bridge on the Ecofina Creek
The SR 388 bridge and a man called "Loco."
Here is where you put out canoes rented at the livery for ride back. To reach this point by the creek is at least 4 hours paddling time.
On Google Maps the spring group is located at approximately 30.4327233 N, 85.5587404 W and clearly marked on Google Maps Gainer Springs or by using the Google Maps Plus Code: CFH2+HC St. Andrews Bay, Florida.  This is actually the location of Fenceline Spring and McCormick Springs.  The Gainer Spring Group is another 1/2 mile downstream.  While it appears from the google maps that you could park along Hwy 20 and walk a few feet over the ridge to the spring, you would be trespassing on private property to get there and it is much further down stream to get to the main spring group.  Regardless, wading down the creek can be as rewarding experience on a very hot day.
Williford Spring on the Ecofina Creek

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