You may be wondering why I chose to go to Fanning Springs when I knew that Hart Springs was flooded. There are a couple of reasons: First, I’d already driven all the way out to Levy County and we’d spent so little time at Hart Springs that it seemed silly to turn around and head back to Gainesville. Second, the flooding makes for some good photography. Except at Fanning Springs, where there was really nothing to capture.
Unlike at Hart Springs, at Fanning Springs we had to pay admission. Fair enough, and that admission came with a warning that if we’d come to see manatees then we were out of luck. I protested that we had come to take pictures, which made the ranger’s ears perk up. What kind of cameras? he asked. Camera buffs are like any other “philes.” They can’t wait to get into pissing contests to see who can shoot the farthest.
I was greatly relieved that my companion had a Panasonic Lumix and was able to answer “extended zoom,” because I knew right away that the ranger had an SLR and that my pocket Sony would be considered barely capable of photographing anything beyond ten feet and certainly not any manatees that might be swimming just below the surface of the dirty water. I also knew that the Panasonic was not going to be seen as anything impressive, and it wasn’t. The ranger had a Nikon.
The Suwannee Gables Motel looks like just the type of place my brother and I would have salivated over back in the 1970s, when Dad would pack us into the Ford wagon and roll us South for a summer vacation. Maybe even better, because it is right on the river, which would have given anxious mothers more reason than ever to worry. We’d have fudged the way teenagers do and said that we would just sit on the picnic bench and look at the water. I’d probably have said that with a straight face and it would have been more or less true; I’d have been looking at the water and the boys on boats on the water and waving at the boys on boats on the water until the boys on boats motored over to offer a ride.
Those were simpler times.
Once inside Fanning Springs, I found another opportunity to photograph an alligator-warning sign. This one was pretty terse and skipped the graphics. Just out of range at the bottom of the picture was a walkway down to the water, so there was both tease and advisory. Since I am now an adult, I take such warnings seriously, as I do warnings from mothers about grown-up boys on boats in rivers.
Fanning Springs: **
The rating is actually two-and-a-half stars, the extra half star given for the ranger’s caution that you couldn’t see the manatees. Fair enough. Even had the water been clear, though, there simply wasn’t much to Fanning Springs. After photographing the water, we walked up a small path and kicked around in a large clearing near the road. This wasn’t the most exciting thing I’ve ever done, but to each his own.