Falmouth Spring: The World’s Shortest River?


We were camping at Suwannee River State Park in July and after a morning of braving spider-infested hiking trails, some of us were sheltering in our air-conditioned travel trailer while some others braved the sweltering outdoor heat for a game of frisbee. I scrolled on over to Atlas Obscura, one of my favorite sites when we’re road tripping, to find out what gems might be nearby. Jackpot!

I found a spring! Florida springs are typically a cool and steady 72 degrees year round and a refreshing dip sounded just about perfect. And this spring was extra interesting: sometimes referred to as the shortest river in the world, it’s really not a river at all but a karst fenster or karst window – part of an underground cave water system whose limestone roof caved in due to erosion, revealing the caves, sinkholes and streams that lurk below the Earth’s surface. How cool!

This is where we entered the spring, at the boardwalk closest to the swallet,
where the spring disappears back into the limestone cave.

The 450-foot long first magnitude spring comes out of the ground at one end and has quite a surprisingly strong current to the other end where it disappears back into the ground as suddenly as it appeared. Honestly, I think I’m a pretty good swimmer and it was a bit of a struggle to make any forward progress while swimming against the current from the boardwalk closer to the siphon, or swallet, up to the spring head – more than 65 million gallons of water flow through here daily. I didn’t dare swim close to the siphon.

Our movements quickly caused clouded water to float downstream.

The nearby Suwannee River is a black water river but I still somehow thought (hoped?) the spring might be pretty clear. Turns out much of the water was rather dark, especially when the sun hid behind a cloud, and most parts beyond the shoreline were too deep to stand in. The vent below the spring head itself is about 40 feet deep. It was breathtakingly “refreshing” to get into at first but you acclimate (or numb up) soon enough. We saw a few small fish along the shore but chose not to think about what else might be lurking in those deeper waters.

Falmouth Spring

There was a rope swing the kids enjoyed at the head of Falmouth Spring, off to the side where the current is not strong. It was not too big, just the perfect size for people of all ages to enjoy. There was another family with small kayaks and inflatable floats for their young kids on this end of the spring. It’s free to park here and enjoy this unique little spring; they even have a nice picnic area. We only left when we did because a late afternoon storm rolled in.

Rope Swing Fun!

I have written about our Atlas Obscura adventures before, as I think it’s a wonderful resource for ideas for potential day trips or stops along our journey. This place was ranked as one of my Best Atlas Obscura Finds by my family members. Check out Atlas Obscura on your next trip and you might find something amazing!

Below I offer some additional photos of Falmouth Spring, the boardwalks, the picnic area and a cheeky little girl who is about to splash her mom with very cold water!


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