Strictly speaking, Cow Spring is not a spring at all, but rather an in-line sinkhole which provides diver access to an underground river that surfaces for the last time at nearby Running Spring. Cow Spring is owned by the NSS-CDS, and is open only to CDS members and their guests. Visitors must first sign waivers at Bill Rennaker’s Cave Excursions, then get the current combination to the gate. No open water divers are allowed.
Cow Spring makes an excellent cavern dive, with numerous openings, and lots of dramatic lighting effects. From the main cavern, cave divers can travel downstream for approximately 600 feet in either of two directions. These two downstream legs are assumed to connect to the two primary resurgences at Running Springs. Explorers such as Woody Jasper and Sheck Exley have all tried to make the connection; no one has succeeded — or is likely to.
At one time, the upstream side of the cave was accessible only via sidemount. Then, in 1994, two open water divers accidentally discovered an upstream entrance that made this breathtaking tunnel accessible to divers wearing back-mounted tanks. The down side of this discovery is that the upstream leg now shows damage to stratified clay banks and other delicate formations caused by the influx of less-than-careful divers.
The upstream leg of the cave consists largely of one tunnel — although there are a few offshoots that generally go only a short distance or loop back to the main line. Eight hundred feet into the cave, depths drop from the 70- to 80-foot range to 100 feet or more, depending on water levels. This means the likelihood of deco. Fortunately, you start offgassing as soon as you reach the shallower water near the cave entrance, and can spend some of your deco time exploring the beautiful caverns.
Because of strong currents, a stretch of passageway from approximately 400 to 800 feet has what Woody Jasper calls the “poor man’s scooter.” This is a piece of polypropelene line that parallels the main line, and is intended to give divers something to pull on. It saves time, energy and a considerable amount of breathing gas.
Students in training are prohibited from diving anything but the downstream side. To help protect the clay banks and other fragile formations, scooters are also prohibited.
A detailed road map showing how to get all of north-central Florida’s most popular cave diving sites is available for download in Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF). 2 pages; 1,002K