â€¢ â€¢ HYDROGEOLOGY OF THE THREE-SISTERS SPRINGS, CRYSTAL RIVER AREA, CITRUS COUN~Y ,_ _ ~~~RIDA by GARALD G. PARKER, SR., CPGl/ A REPORT PREPARED FOR HARVEY AND LINDA GOODMAN SEPTEMBER, 1982 . 1/ b~ Certified Professional Geologist No â€¢ . %-i P. o. Box 270089, Tampa, Florida 336~8 . . .... .
â€¢ â€¢ â€¢ HYDROGEOLOGY OF THREE SISTERS SPRINGS, CRYSTAL RIVER AREA, CITRUS COUNTY, FLORIDA by Garald G. Parker, Sr., CPG LOCATI.ON Three Sisters Springs are also known as "Middle Spring." Tfiey are located in the NE 1/4 of the SE 1/4 of the NW 1;4 of'Section 28, T18S, Rl7E, which is about 0.8 mile Sl8E of the intersection of us 19 and SR 495, i _ n the town of cri,stal River. Three Sisters Springs are a part of the Crystal River Group, as described in Bulletin 31 (1977), p. 81, of the Florida Bureau of Geology, all of which eventually discharge into the eastern part of Kings Bay. SE~TING AND SPRING DISCHARGE. Three Sisters Springs now discharge via a dredged channel about 10 feet wide at the middle lake's shore. From there, flow is southwest into a boat channel that connects directly with King's Bay. In their natural state, as Is.aw these springs in the fall of 1945, there was no recognizable outlet channel draining the Three Sisters Springs they were landlocked. The shores and the sur-rounding land were thickly vegetated, and access was on foot by way of a winding footpath about O. 3 miler : long westerly from US 19. It was,used chiefly, I presume, by fishermen and swimmers. The general. appearance o f. the area was that of a pristine wooded wetland with bordering growthsâ€¢ of taller trees surroundi~g the lakes. , their luxuriant foliag. e a lmost forming a leafy canopy over the springs. . A rude plank raft was tied to a shoreline tree, and a rope for swinging outinto the water hung from an â€¢ overhanging tree branch.
â€¢ â€¢ â€¢ â€¢ â€¢ â€¢ â€¢ â€¢ I was accompanied on this trip by Dr. C. Wythe Cooke. -of th~ u. S. Geological Survey' s Washington Office, a nd by Di:s ... Roberto. Vernon and John H. Davis, of the Florida Geological Survey. Our reason for being there was to make a reconnaissance study of the geology, hydrology, and biology of the Cry_stal River area. While at the springs, Dr. Davis was busy checking flora and fauna while Dr. Vernon and I sW411t and dived in. the springs to determine if these springs were fed by submerged sinkholes or were fed instead by more-or-less diffuse flow from the underlying solution-riddled Ocala Limestone. While divingwe carried .. rock hammers and picks to obtain samples of rock and fossils . We found only a . clean, white, sandy floor with no limestone pedestals (there may have been some, but if so, we did not see any) and water was bubbling up through the sandy floors almost everywhere. In no place did we find open, chimney-like dis~ charge tubes such as those seen at the nearby group of small springs now known as "Idiots Delight" but unnamed in. 1945.----Eel grass was common on the spring floors and hydrophytic plants fringed the shores. We did not have a boat or canoeat the springs but used the plank raft that was there. No attempt was made to measure the flow.because there was no channeled outflow to measure. As there was water flowing up through diffused paths out of the limestone and .through the white sand cover, it was believed that the flow
â€¢ â€¢ â€¢ from the springs escaped westward through the.permeable limestone to. disc.harge into Kings Bay chiefly as ground-water seepage. We estimated the water level in the springs to-be about six feet above sea level and about half-a-foot below the rim of the lakes. The-springs ar-e tidal but the tidal effects. were-small., not. noticeable while we were there for several hours in midday. â€¢ â€¢ The above information is chiefly from my memory of that visit, re-inf,orced by a study of .the U.S.G.S. quadrangle map _ "Crystal River" and also by subsequent visits to the Crystal River area while I was the Chief Hydrologist and Senior Scientist of the Southwest Florida Water Management District during the period 1969-1975. I also have read the U.S.G.S. reports that bear on this area. CONDITIONS SUBSEQUENT TO 1945 I have little knowledge of 1-ocal changing conditions at the Three Sis-ters Springs since the 1945 reconnaissance study of the Crystal River Springs Area. I have been back in the 1969-1975 period to other parts of the Crystal Springs Area, including boat trips to sound and sample the Kings Bay submerged springs, and have kept current with U.S.G.S. flow -measurements of those springs. Likewise, I have personally prep~d, from.U.S.G.S. and SWPWMI). ground-water level data, potentiometric maps showing heights of the Florid.an Aquifer pressure s.urtace in the SWFWMD area. These maps-, plus similar ones prepared by others, notably the U.S.G.S., indicate that there has been a regional lowering of a foot or two of the potentiometric surface along the coastal strip and a five-foot lowering farther inland, due chiefly to dredging of boat channels. This
â€¢ â€¢ â€¢ â€¢ â€¢â€¢â€¢ . ---. --__ ...... _ ....... -'""~ dredging op.ens up ground-water discharge orifices in the limestones of the top of the F ,loridan Aquifer and increases groundwater discharge from the aquifer. They also become sea-level channels of salty water and induce aquifer water levels-to fall to sea level. With this lowe-ring off re-sh-wa-ter head in theaquif er, discharge from the springs is reduced. Thus, one woul.d expect that the springs no longer flow as strongly as they did prior to dredging of the boat channels and drainage canals. Likewise, increased ground-water pumpage inland has had its effect in reducing flow oâ€¢_ the springs. How much is the fl-ow reduction in Three Sisters Springs'? How much has its water level been lowered? There are no quantitative answers because no one has been interested in measuring the flow out of the springs or measuring the s -tages (height of wat~r surface) in the springs. It is known that these and other coastal springs all respond to the changing tide levels. In nearby Crystal River, the U.S.G.S. has made periodic stage and flow (discharge) measurements beginning in October, 1964. Maximum flow occurred in 1966 and was 3,970 cfs (cubic feet per second), whfch equalS 2.56 billion gallons a day. Minimum flow of 420 cfs (271 mgd) occurred in 1967. Mean flow over the period 1964-1975 was 916 cfs, or 592 mgd. The U.S.G.S. flow and stage measurements are made at a site about three miles seaward from the town of Crystal Ri-ver, thus the discharge of the Three Sisters Springs is included in these measurements along with those of all the â€¢ other springs, most of which are subaqueous, in the Cfystal River Group of springs.
â€¢â€¢ I I â€¢ â€¢ In a Florida Bureau of Geology report entitled "General Hydxology of the Middle Gulf Area, Florida" (1970), variations in flow characteristics of springs from the Floridan Aquifer are characterized as being low in the summer and fall months when rainfall and tides are high; also, that the flow of springsis greatest in winter and spring months when rainfall and tides are lowest. S.ubsequent study of Crystal River shows that its flow and stage also is greatest during the dry seasons of the year, not the wet seasons; the Three Sisters probably respond in this fashion also. So we may summarize that the flow and stage of the Three Sisters Springs is greatest during dry seasons and least during wet seasons, and that the stage is tidal, in the order of two to four feet. However, as these springs are not gaged, and never have been, we have no quantitative data to describe their actual stage and discharge~ CURRENT CONDITIONS Monday, September 13, 1982, was spent on a reconnaissance study.of the Three Sisters Springs. The setting of the site has been drastically changed since I saw it first in the fall of 1945. The once wooded wetlands have been bulldozed over, dredging has been done in at least one of the springs, and dredged limestone and white sand spread over wide surrounding areas. Only a fringe of big trees still surround the springs. The area of the open water of the springs is much enlarged over what it was in 1945, and the banks have not only receded, -s-
.. , â€¢ they are still receding. The rank_ growth of hydrophytes, particularly pickerel weed and willows has been greatly thinned out,and it is obvious that vandalism is largely the cause. Trees and bushes have been sawed or cho~ped down, cuts have been made to allow boats to be dragged ashore, and the .. general erosion of the banks is indicative of boat waves and propeller wash. Paper, beer and pop cans, hot-dog wrappers, swe .et-corn husks, and other trash are not only strewed on the land about the springs but are also present in the springs. Apparently scallops and other clams are principal items of picnicking as their shells are littered over the bottom of the springs. Campfire sites occur randomly about the springs, and some of the tree cutting is done for firewood. Most, however, appears to have been done to permit passage to the shores from boats in the springs. Eel. grass is still present in parts of the springs, and it is obvious from its "lawn-mowed" ~ppearance in some places that manatees have been grazing there. But the clean white sand is now largely covered with a layer of slimey muck from the erosion I of the banks and decaying ve.getation. The presence of algae blooms ln parts of the shoreline area indicates that eutrophication is setting in. SUMMARY All in all, the springs give mute evidence of human violation of this formerly pristine area. The springs are being destroyed by vandals among the picnickers-and pleasure boaters. High-powered speed boats create shore wash that erodes the banks -6-
ti â€¢ -and spreads silt and muck over the sandy bottom ; picnic and beer-bust parties litte~ the springs bottoms and surrounding lands; and the trees are being vandalized or cut for firewood and to gain access from boats to the shore. This is yet another of nature's beauty spots that is being totally destroyed and all because of people who do not try to enjoy a place of natural beauty without destroying it. There-is no question in my mind that the~ springs,are heing destroyed, and that if they are to be saved, the rapacious members of the public must be kept out. Inasmuch as, in nature, these springs were landlocked, they were not navigable waters. Only the creation of the cut to allow outflow of water and boat traffic into the springs has made these springs artificially navigable. It appears to me that a few steel pilingsr dtven: _into the outlet channel and spaced perhaps 40 inches apart would atop the speedboaters but still allow free flow of water and the ingress and-egress of manatees -also of humans in canoes. With some police supervision, such steps to prevent power boat traffic in the Three Sisters. Springs should be successful in stopping the vandalism now going on and-would allow nature to begin to heal the wounds to the springs environment. To permit a -continuance of. the unaccept:able behavior of peci>ple aa we see it now is to invite the eventual ruination of the-Three Sisters Springs. Garald G. â€¢~-~ â€¢ , CPG. â€¢â€¢~,ct.Tr â€¢â€¢â€¢ ~.... â€¢ct.~~ ;~â€¢~ J))SEP.ao â€¢ -