» Vortex Spring

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Rated 2.8/5 stars (178 ratings)

Overview Location & Specifics Conditions Resources Nearby Systems  
Portions of the following information were taken from Florida Geological Survey Bulletin 66.

The spring is located approximately 3.5 miles north of the town of Ponce de Leon in a privately operated park. From the intersection of US 90 and SR 81 in Ponce de Leon drive north on SR 81 approximately 3.8 miles to the intersection with Vortex Spring Road. Turn east (right) on Vortex Spring Road and travel approximately 0.7 miles to the private park entrance.

Description - Vortex Spring pool is nearly circular and measures 225 ft in diameter. The depth near the pool center is 48 ft. Clear, sky-blue water fills the large bowl-shaped depression. No spring boil was observed November 2002. The bottom is generally sandy with limestone near the vent. A relatively small spring run, called Blue Creek, exits on the east side of the pool and flows generally southward into Sandy Creek, which in turn flows into the Choctawhatchee River. There are multiple wooden swimming and diving platforms around the pool edge. The surrounding land is grassy and slopes upward to approximately 10 ft above the spring pool. The park is developed into a swimming and scuba diving recreational area. There is an extensive cave system associated with this spring that is frequented by cave divers.

Vortex spring is a major commercial operation ($25/day for diving) catering to Scuba training at all levels. Open 365 days a year and with an excellent flood control system to keep it clear, it is very popular as an Open Water certification site and is frequently quite crowded. For the cave diver in training, Vortex has two artificial training swim-through caves in the spring basin in addition to a respectable cavern area and cave. The cave itself is “fully developed” for the first 300 feet or so, sloping down from the cavern area at about 60 feet to a locked gate at 107 feet. This passage has flood control piping and a string of lights all the way to the gate in lieu of a main line. Even though it is beyond the NACD warning sign, the light string is just too attractive and this part of the cave is frequented by open-water divers who often keep it kicked up pretty bad. But if you hit it early in the morning or at night it’s usually clear and pretty. There are a couple of side passages before you get to the gate that are interesting, but the largest has been blocked with a grate after the last open-water diver fatality in there.

The cave beyond the locked gate (key available to full cave certified divers only) begins with a sand-bottom restriction that drops and opens into a domed room at 117 feet. The floor in this area is silty and easily kicked up, but there’s plenty of overhead room to stay well off the bottom once through the restriction. The main line is not gold line but regular braided nylon. From here the cave slopes up a few feet and changes to a sandy bottom, proceeding as a large solution tube for another couple hundred feet where the tube gives way to a vertical crack with beautiful water carved walls. Another hundred feet or so, beyond the crack is a medium-small (it’ll hold three divers comfortably with room to maneuver) room; the spring then becomes a long bedding plane restriction with just barely enough vertical clearance to continue with backmount (depending on the day – some days the sand is a little closer to the ceiling and backmount just isn’t an option). If you want to go through this second restriction I recommend side-mount. The bedding plane continues (sand bottom) for another hundred feet or so, then opens a little before the cave heads downward in a passage that soon becomes no-mount (and too small for me). I have heard from other divers that 150’ is reachable, but that things get pretty tight by then.

All-in-all Vortex is a very pretty – though short - cave once you get past the gate and the rototillers.
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Latitude: 30.77045
Longitude: -85.94845
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Maximum Depth: 157'
 Cave Diving
 Cavern Diving
 Open Water Diving
Date Submitter Visbility Remarks
9/25/2010 Mathew Bull 20-50' Seemed a bit milky, likely due to the ROV. Flow was average.
8/22/2010 Jerry 60-80 Staged and side-mounted; system has been dredged easily side-mounted to 130 ft deep---beyond the fourth and fifth restrictions the cave gets very low, 18 to 24 inches. Forced my way back near the reported end of the line, hit a max depth of 156 ft; turned on thirds. Had to dig my way back out in zero vis; I WON'T go back.
4/25/2010 Mathew Bull 60'ish Cavern looked great, didn't bother with the cave on this trip.
3/29/2010 Jason H Bockelman 50 Dove Vortex for some OW checkouts then strapped on some Sidemount gear for a stroll in the cave. Vis was 50 feet or so with strong flow once you get past the gate. Max Depth was 157' with a temp of 68 degrees. It was quite a workout getting back there with all the flow and the low ceiling. The deco was "festive" at 10:00 at night with the fresh water eels swarming around, I'll never do that again. They really liked my light and wouldn't leave me be. Nice dive, worth doing once, but not nice enough for the extended deco and being tired as heck driving home. Took me a full day to recover.
1/23/2010 Mathew Bull 40' at best Basin was mucked up by traffic, no better than 20-30' up to the gate and no better than 30-40' vis beyond hte gate. Flow was kickin for this site.
7/10/2009 Mathew Bull 40-100' Basin had 40' visibility or better, not too many people in the water. Cavern and cave were crystal clear.
6/13/2009 David Todd 60' AM we dove Vortex vis 60' ok dive but lots of clutter in the cavern, and people who should not be that deep in that cavern. We made two dives.
5/9/2009 Michael Meyer 30 lots of OW divers there and classes. cleared up in the afternoon and got more quite. flow was noticeable but not bad at all. Good place for night dives.
4/16/2009 Mathew Bull 40-100' Basin was clear, 40-60', and flow in the cave was way up. I never really considered Vortex a working dive until today in the lower(as in vertically challenged) portion of cave. Cave was crystal clear.
3/27/2009 Mathew Bull 3-100' 3'-5' and milky in the basin, but the cave was crystal clear.
3/6/2009 Shirley Kasser Nice There were quite a few folks on the property, but the basin was not bad at all. We headed back to about 600', with nice conditions. The flow and viz were moderate. This was my first time back this far and the cave is quite interesting, minus the drainage pipe. Nitrox is now available on site, yay!
2/14/2009 Mathew Bull 80' past the gate Basin visibility wasn't all that great, nor was the cave nearly up to the gate, but beyond the gate the cave looked great.
12/27/2008 Mathew Bull 100' Hardly anyone there, visibility in OW was 30-40' and the cave was 100' with a slight, noticable flow. Its a neat cave behind the gate.
4/20/2008 Mathew Bull 70-100' Flow is up and very noticable at the 2nd and 3rd restrictions. Dove early Sunday with about 10' visibility(crowded) in OW. Later in the day, visibility was easily 70' once the crowds departed from OW. Perfectly clear in the cave though, on either dive. Shut the gate behind us going in early in the day and closed it in the faces of a team of OW divers mucking up the first 300' of cave that they had access to...
10/20/2007 Mathew Bull 100 Crowds are heavier on Saturdays and the price is now $19 and includes a fill. Supposedly you can back mount even through the third restriction now(I didn't try since turning around would have been out of the question and I was trying to avoid deco).
6/25/2007 Jim McMichael 75' Great once you get past the pipes & disco lights. The Locked gate is something new to me though. Sand bottom mostly. Lots of life in there ells were all over the place, Minn flow.
8/21/2005 Rick Murchison 100' Need to correct the basic system info. Vortex does indeed have a cave. Max depth I've heard reported so far is about 150'. The dive I made Sunday had a max depth of 117' at the first restriction just beyond the gate. The cave averages about 105' for the next 300' or so, then heads down and gets too small for me. Vis was a bit hazy Saturday but nice and clear Sunday; flow was minimal but steady. Rick
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System Depth Cave Cavern OW Last Report Distance (mi)
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