Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park is a world-famous spot for cave diving, attracting enthusiasts from around the world. With two major springs, a spring run, and six sinkholes in perfect condition, it is also a glorious spot for nature lovers and spring fans, as well as anyone wanting to enjoy the natural beauty and crystal-clear waters of North Florida’s freshwater springs.
Named after a renowned cave diver, photographer and explorer, Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park boast one of the most significant underwater cave systems across the continental United States. Over 33,000 feet of caves have been surveyed and they were first explored in 1956.
The park itself is a gorgeous, secluded retreat set just off the majestic Suwannee River. Pines and old-growth maples create a quiet, shady woodland atmosphere, while springs, sinkholes and a spring run offer delightful oases to relax near.
Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park contains five second magnitude natural springs, which remain at a wonderfully constant 72 degrees year-round. Swimmers love the Peacock Springs, while families can enjoy shaded picnic benches and grassy areas for kids to play in. Orange Grove Sink offers a boardwalk and set of wooden stairs to allow easy access to the water.
The park and its cave system are ancient and geologically fascinating. Formed thousands of years ago when the ocean that covered Florida receded, the caves now contain remarkable fossil evidence of the mammals and sea creatures that once roamed here. Native American communities lived here before Spanish religious missions arrived in the 17th century. The area was formally settled in the middle of the 19th century by Dr. John Calvin Peacock, with the advent of brick-making, the lumber industry, and the railroad.
Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park is one of the most attractive of the Florida State Parks for birdwatchers. The park attracts migrant songbirds like Swainson’s thrush, rose-breasted grosbeak, red-eyed vireos, hooded warblers, and northern waterthrush, while native species like pileated woodpeckers are common here too. During the winter keen-eyed birders will find brown creepers, golden-crowned kinglets and winter wrens, while summer brings Mississippi and swallow-tailed kites, as well as cuckoos, flycatchers and white-eyed vireos.
On land, nature lovers may encounter deer, bobcats, raccoons and squirrels, while the Suwannee river boasts otters and beavers. Alligators and turtles can be found in the river as well, and there are occasional manatee sightings!
The area is also particularly noted for butterfly viewing. Hackberry Emperors, Giant Swallowtails, and Zebra Longwings are all regulars, while Texan Crescent and Carolina Satyrs visit the wildflower meadows in the spring and summer months.
The main draw that brings visitors to Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park is its extraordinary underground cave system and opportunities for cave diving. To explore the caverns below, visitors must produce proof of relevant scuba certification. Underground, divers can explore the remarkable caves and tunnels that have formed as part of Florida’s aquifer network, and discover cave crayfish, American eel, redeye club and the Florida cave amphipod, all of whom call these caves home.
No solo diving is permitted, and all student divers must be accompanied by an instructor. Cavern and cave diving is available to certified dive teams in Orange Grove Sink and Peacock Springs, while open water divers are only allowed in the Orange Grove Sink. Entering or surfacing anywhere but Peacock Springs or Orange Grove Sink is prohibited unless necessary to ensure the safety of the divers. All dives must be finished at least one hour before sunset.
Depending on the time of year and the variable water levels, snorkeling is allowed at both Peacock Springs and Orange Grove Sink.
For non-divers or those without equipment, a walking trail above ground follows the cave system and provides fascinating information about the hidden world below. Other nature and walking trails offer great opportunities for hikers and ramblers.
Swimming is popular in the natural waters of Peacock and Bonnet springs, as well as in the cool spring runoff. Peacock I Spring is the easiest to get to and the most popular and boasts an elevated wooden walkway as well as stairs providing access to the spring.
There are excellent picnic facilities in two different sections of the park. There are picnic tables, outdoor grills and a two-table picnic pavilion in the Orange Grove Sink area, while the Peacock Springs area offers picnic tables and grills.
There are two parking areas at the entrance to the park, each with public restrooms and public changing areas. Dogs are allowed in the park but must be kept on a leash at all times. There is no drinking water available.