By Dr. Rob Norman
Get out and enjoy the great Florida outdoors at the 160-acre Lithia Springs Park, located on the Alafia River, offering varied plant communities, river cypress swamps, and hardwood hammocks. The park’s major attraction is the natural spring that offers an excellent swimming experience given the 72 degrees water temperature year-round. In addition to swimming, there is a bath house, playground and picnic facilities.
Lithia Springs Major is a second magnitude spring situated within a large, man-modified, spring pool. The average water flow of Lithia Major is approximately 24 million gallons a day coming from a large limestone “crack” at a depth of about 10 ft. The water is clear and blue-greenish. The spring pool has steep retaining walls with several access stairways leading down into the water. The entire bottom of Lithia Spring Major is bare white sand. The vent in the center of the pool is covered by a barred metal barricade to prevent entry. The clear, sandy spring run exits east and flows approximately 200 ft. then turns south flowing approximately 750 ft. into the tannic Alafia River. Land around the springs is a developed county park. Lithia Spring Minor joins the Alafia River approximately 100 ft. downstream from the mouth of Lithia Spring Major.
Prior to the advent of white settlers in 1846, Lithia had been variously inhabited by Native American tribes, such as the Tocobaga, Muskogan (Creek), Tomokan, Caloosa and later the Seminole, some of whom were noted by the Spanish in the 1600s. In 1847 settlers from Georgia arrived and in 1848, James Alderman created a ford on the Alafia River at the site of present day Alderman’s Ford Park. By the time of the civil war, Alderman’s cattle ranching operation included around 30,000 head of cattle. Lithium was discovered in the waters of a spring around 1900, which resulted in the naming of the community to Lithia. As a fun note, Lithia is the closest community to the coordinates listed as the launch site by Jules Verne in his 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon.
The park offers a canoe/kayak launch to explore the adjacent Alafia River. Along the river is a hiking trail leading to the camping sites. Camping includes 44 sites with water and electrical services and two shower houses.
Regular sites are $24 a night and the senior rate (over 55) is $18 a night. There are no reservations for sites; everything is done on a first-come, first-served basis. The campground office always closes one hour earlier than the remainder of the park. Those wishing to camp should arrive early. All rentals for the picnic shelter and meeting rooms are made on-line.
Lithia Springs Park is located at 3932 Lithia Springs Rd. in Lithia. Call 635-3510 for more information.