The Suwannee River valley region is not the only center of cave diving in north Florida. Merritts Mill Pond near Marianna and the adjacent Chipola River are both home to several underwater caves. Getting to most of these requires a boat. The notable exception is Jackson Blue Spring.
Jackson Blue is located at the north end of Merritts Mill Pond and is its primary source of water. The pond has existed in its present form since being dammed in 1866. The original river bed of the spring run is clearly visible from the surface for most of its length. Trees and stumps penetrate the surface on either side of the river bed.
Jackson Blue has the distinction of being the one spring in the region that is easily accessible from shore. Blue Springs Recreation Area provides ample parking, a covered pavilion with picnic tables and a large bath house with separate mens and ladies rooms. The park is open to the public during the summer; otherwise, it’s for cave divers only.
Before you can get to the park, you need to check in at nearby Cave Adventurers. After signing a waiver and paying the admission fee, you will receive a car pass and the current gate code. Just remember to always close the gate behind you.
Cave Adventurers is a full-service dive center. It has a drive-up fill station and a wide range of equipment for sale or rent. Additionally, you can rent pontoon boats to explore other Mill Pond caves. Need a place to stay? Cave Adventurers can set you up with any of a number of rental homes, cabins and trailers.
Diving Jackson Blue
The first few hundred feet of the cave are relatively shallow (12-15 m/40-50 ft range). Then the main line drops through a very pronounced fracture to the 27 m/90 ft range. The main line goes back several thousand feet. Along the way, you will see a number of offshoot lines for further exploration. (There is more than enough to keep you busy here for several dives.)
Be sure to check out the deeper area that will be on your left as you enter and on the right as you exit, between the drop off and the entrance. There are a number of interesting things down here. Finally, be sure to take some time to play around in the general vicinity of the entrance before leaving the cave. Some of the neatest things to see can be found in just the first 60 m/200 ft.