Florida sits on top of an aquifer, meaning that natural springs are everywhere throughout the state, amounting to more than a thousand. A unique aspect of these springs is that they remain the same temperature all year, regardless of the weather.
Florida waters remain warm all year round, and you can swim year-round, whether it’s a natural spring or the beach. The coldest the Everglades ever get is 71°F, with the natural springs maintaining a solid 72°F at all times.
Some of Florida’s springs are off limits to swimmers during the winter months but not because there is a danger of hypothermia. It’s the manatees. During the winter, manatees swim into the springs dotted across Florida because the 72° water helps to keep them warm.
Do People Swim in Florida Springs During the Winter?
Springs that don’t become manatee habitats from November to March will often have visitors, both locals, and tourists. The tourism trade never goes away for Florida, though it significantly drops in the fall and winter seasons.
Tourism picks back up around spring break and only grows from there. During the winter, people are still more than welcome to take a dip in the springs, so long as no manatees are hanging about.
Some central and southern Florida springs match the weather, so you’ll often find that the hottest point of the day in December is the same temperature as the spring. If you’re cold in 72° weather, a dip in the spring won’t warm you up.
However, a “polar bear” dip in a Florida spring when the weather is in the 40s or 50s will make the spring feel pretty warm until you get out. In most cases, you won’t notice the difference. Central Florida doesn’t have much of a sustained, cold winter. South Florida winters tend to be 65° to 75° and breezy.
Is Bacteria a Concern in the Springs Throughout the Winter?
No more or less than it is in the summer. In fact, the coolness of the springs throughout the summer wards off most bacteria and amoebas. However, lately, there have been very rare occurrences of flesh-eating bacteria in Florida.
It always occurs in the summer heat and comes in on the Gulf of Mexico, and is even rarer on the Atlantic side. Otherwise known as Necrotizing Fasciitis (which somehow sounds worse), most adults can handle the disease and fight it off.
Unfortunately, very young children and the elderly are more prone to suffering serious consequences from contracting the bacteria. Flesh Eating disease doesn’t really eat your flesh. What it does is stops blood circulation through various parts of the body.
When tissue is deprived of blood, it’s unable to get the proper amount of oxygen and water. So it will die quickly and begin to rot as if it were separated from your body. The most susceptible are those who have open cuts, sores, or lesions on their bodies when they go out into infected water.
Since flesh-eating bacteria doesn’t announce itself in the water, there’s no way of knowing if you’re exposed.
Strep A Bacteria
This is another common bacteria that sometimes percolate in Florida waters. However, it’s rare, just like flesh-eating bacteria. Unfortunately, some people associate bacteria in Florida waters with “all” Florida waters.
The fact is, Strep A is prevalent throughout the winter and spring months but only in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the southern parts of Florida that touches the Atlantic.
Strep A has never caused any issues in the summer or winter as far as Florida springs are concerned.
Also, the number of Strep A infections recorded in Florida isn’t necessarily associated with swimming as the primary factor.
A patient may say that they started experiencing symptoms after swimming, but the nature of the swimming, the where, the when, and the how (in terms of temperature) are not the kinds of information that is taken down.
Are There Any Hot Springs in Florida?
There are precisely three hot springs in the state of Florida. However, only one of those three is open to the public. Warm Mineral Spring is a natural hot spring located inside a sinkhole in North Port, Florida.
It’s known as Warm Mineral Springs Park, and it’s a huge mineral spring. The spring is only closed for one day out of 365, and that is Christmas Day.
Other than that, you can show up any time of the year, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The pricing is skewed towards residents, meaning tourists and out-of-towners will have to pay a premium to get in. Locals get the lower price, and Warm Mineral Spring brings in the money yearly. During the winter months, when it gets cold enough in Florida, the springs have a warm, humid mist hanging over them.
Just because it’s winter in Florida, however, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring your sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen. The sun will blister your skin at 54° outside or 96°. The park is just as nice as most other natural springs in Florida.
The water temperature remains a constant, 85°F temperature all year round, and North Port, Florida, is located in the center of the state.
While the temperatures don’t get too crazy in the winter, they get cold enough to make a nice dip in the hot springs feel wonderful.
A day pass for residents costs $15 per person and $20 per person for non-residents. They also allow you to buy annual passes for $1,125 for residents and $2,000 for non-residents, though both options seem like a bit much, especially if you live in town and only want to visit 10 to 15 times over the winter.
Bring a Wetsuit
One thing you can do if you want to take a polar dip at one of Florida’s famous natural springs is bring a wetsuit. You won’t even look out of place. Many scuba divers visit the springs all year long, and a wetsuit isn’t going to be out of place.
It’s also a good idea to wear a good thermal wetsuit while you’re in a kayak or canoe. Then, if you tip and have to hit the water, your skin will stay dry, and you’ll remain relatively warm, except for your feet and hands.
While swimming with manatees isn’t allowed in most parks, there are tours available in some that will allow it on a very limited basis. Since winter is the only time the manatees come to the springs in droves, it’s a good idea to bring a wetsuit to stay warm in the water for the tour.
You will need to contact multiple state parks to see who offers tours throughout the year.
As you can see, Florida offers accessibility all year round. So even if you can’t go swimming in the winter because of the manatees, you will still get a first-class ticket to some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire state.
One thing you can say about Florida, especially if you’re from up North, is that it’s always “warm” in Florida.
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