Local springs close as Elsa flooding continues

The Santa Fe River near Fort White is 6 feet over the flood stage as of midday Friday and nearby springs are browned out and closed to swimmers.

Columbia County’s Rum Island Park closed its gates Friday morning to both boats and swimmers.

Rum 138 outfitter owner Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson in Fort White reported that as of 9 a.m. Friday morning both bridges off US Highway 27 and US Highway 47 in Fort White were still open, but that could change as Santa Fe River levels continue to rise.

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Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park remained open to visitors on Friday, but officials are not allowing swimming due to the browned out water.

Recently reopened Poe Springs is now closed for the same reason, according to Alachua County Parks and Open Space manager Jason Maurer. He said that for safety reasons the park will remain closed until it is reassessed next week.

“The springs have browned out,” Maurer said. “The water level is now over the top of the steps and up into the beach area. It’s unsafe for swimming and with increased currents, it’s just not worth the risk.”

Ginnie Springs posted a photo of flooded campgrounds and announced via Facebook on Sunday that they will be closed from from July 11 to 18.

“We will post more information about further closures and/or reopening date as soon as we can. Our reopening date depends on when the flood water recedes, unfortunately, we cannot predict exactly when this will happen,” the post states.
The closures come two days after Tropical Storm Elsa came through the area, dumping 2-6 inches of rain and sending floodwaters into home and across roadways. Alachua County issued a water advisory Thursday, and the county reports five road closures as of midday Friday. 

According to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Jacksonville, which has been updating the public throughout the storm’s life cycle, flood warnings continue for the Santa Fe River near Worthington Springs. At 9:15 a.m on Friday the NWS reported the water level stage was 64 feet, surpassing the river’s flood stage of 59.0 feet.

“The river is expected to fall to 59.9 feet Friday morning,” the report states. It noted that at 56 feet the boat ramp and floating dock at Chastain-Seay Park in Worthington Springs begin to flood, at 58 feet the picnic areas and campsites begin to flood, and at 59 feet the park usually closes as access roads flood. 

“Flooding along the river continues to impact boat ramps, docks and campgrounds,” the NWS report states.

As the water level rises, the NWS warns flooding in Union County could expand across farm land south of County Road 18 and approach the road surface about a mile east of SW County Road 241.

Impact at 63 feet means that SW 99th Avenue in Union County will begin to flood, and if water reaches 64 feet, SW 99th Avenue in Union County will be subject to closure. NWS says at 64 feet access to homes near the river will be restricted as water will begin to approach residences in the area.

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