Located in the town of Ponce de Leon, Vortex Spring is the largest diving facility in The Sunshine State. With 520 acres to explore and plenty of instruction available, this resort is also one of the safest and most family-friendly attractions for those who enjoy being in the water.
Formally known as “Blue Spring,” Vortex Spring was purchased and renamed by Denzel and Ruth Dockery in 1968. Denzel Dockery was newly retired from the U.S. Navy and took on the spring area as a retirement project after learning a new hobby, scuba diving.
The couple is responsible for designing the red and white “Diver Down” flag, one of the most recognized scuba diving symbols. Since 1972, the establishment is still run by the same family but has been taken over by a new generation.
Producing about 28 million gallons of clear water daily, the 68℉ spring fills a large 200-foot basin with a cave below. The spring outflow runs into Otter Creek, which connects with Sandy Creek just upstream of Ponce de Leon Spring. Many types of fish live in these waters, including eels and carp.
Scuba Diving and Other Activities
Scuba diving is one of the top activities in the park, and it’s set up for all skill levels. There are some on-site instructors who can teach novices and two underwater training platforms that are utilized for Open Water certification dives.
Certification is required to go into the depths of the cave. Diving training classes are offered for a cost but will give anyone the necessary skills for enjoying the park and the sport.
The swimming and snorkeling areas are downstream from the diving section and are great for families. A tree house with a slide to the water, toys, swings, and diving boards are set up in this space. Inner tubing down the spring run is often done and a lot of fun, especially on a hot summer day.
Walking trails and picnic tables are throughout the land, ideal for having a picnic before or after splashing around in the spring water.
Tubes, snorkeling equipment, canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards may all be rented on-site. Daily entrance fees apply, and the park hours depend on the season. The dive store has apparel and gear for sale too.
The mouth of the cave is about 58 feet from the surface, and only expert divers are allowed to go inside until reaching 115 feet. A handrail starts at the entrance of the cave for assistance, and the path goes all the way down to 310 feet. A gate has been placed there to stop anyone from going deeper into it.
The depths of this cave are notorious and exploring it has caused controversy. Before restrictions were in place, a group of 13 divers died while exploring the caverns in the 1990s. Since then, one man has gone missing, and another passed away after managing to get in passed the gated area.
Lodging and Camping
Vortex offers several housing options, including a spacious residence for scuba divers or large groups that can accommodate up to 24 people. Additional housing options include bunk-bed lodges, standard rooms with queen beds and kitchenettes, and cabins.
Campsites are also available for those who would rather sleep outside, and nightly prices vary by season. Some of the sites include water and sewer connections, as well as a dump station. Other spaces are considered primitive camping and don’t have amenities. Day camping is also an option.
Address: 1517 Vortex Springs Ln, Ponce De Leon, Florida 32455