Hardee Spring Update – April 2024

Located on the Withlacoochee River in the Twin Rivers State Forest, Hardee Spring is known for its swift flow and poor visibility.  The site was purchased by the State to support Florida’s First Magnitude Spring Project/Florida Forever land acquisition program in 2019. The 316-acre purchase conserved an additional 1.5 miles of river frontage. The land had been in the Hardee family since the 1930s and is situated in an upland recharge area for Madison Blue Spring. The spring has a daily outflow of water that is comparable to better-known sites like Devil’s Eye/Ear, but water in the system tends to be tannic with significant river intrusion, making “good” visibility 10 to 15 feet and typical visibility about half that.

KUR’s work continues at Hardee Springs, but this is a site that doesn’t give up secrets easily. The system is very susceptible to reversal during significant flood events, which tends to lead to shifting sands that can bury the guideline and the intake of plant matter which can break it. It is not unusual to undertake clean-up and line repair after each flood before survey and exploration can resume. The team is currently focused on an update of the only known survey, by Fredericks, Sapp & Hires in 2009, as well as continued exploration.  The current end-of-line is tantalizingly close to the Agate Sink cave system, but the connection remains elusive. The poor visibility in the system makes it extremely easy to miss potential leads so the going is slow.

Flood conditions on the Withlacoochee have kept Hardee and many other systems out of reach for the last two and a half months. But the waters are currently receding, and the team hopes to get back to work in the next few weeks.

Author: Brian Armstrong

Brian learned to dive in 1994 in a PE class at North Carolina State University and, thanks to a small community of cave divers there, started cave diving in 1995. Over the next decade he continued to volunteer with the NC State scuba program, participated in numerous hyperbaric studies for Diver’s Alert Network and made trips to cave country as often as possible. In 2005 he was part of a project to recover a B-25 Mitchell from a reservoir in South Carolina, which is where he met his wife, Heather. That led to a move to Florida in 2006. Since then, the two have been involved in various scuba projects in the US and Mexico, worked as crew for the M/V Spree in Key West, done salvage work for NOAA, and have been involved with KUR since 2020. Between dives, Brian is a Regional Engineering Manager for Amazon and lives in St Petersburg, FL.

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