Kayaking and canoeing in Florida often takes paddlers on an adventure that reveals pleasant surprises. Such is the case with Merritt Mill Pond located 2.5 miles east of Marianna, Fl, on U.S. Hwy 90. This five mile long, 202 acre pond could almost pass for a river except for the fact that it is created from the flow of multiple fresh water karst springs and is dammed on the lower end where the flow there creates the beginning of Spring Creek on its way to the Chipola River.
Fish and Wildlife on Merritt Mill Pond
Once on the water the first thing paddlers will notice is the amazing clarity of the water as they drift over vast eel grass beds. Fish of varying sizes and species can be seen clearly as they swim through the aqua colored waters. Fishing is a popular activity on the pond and several state record holding fish, including a 4.86 lb Redear (Shellcracker), have been taken from these waters.
Merritt Mill Pond is truly a wildlife lovers dream; turtles bask serenely on logs while herons, kingfishers and egrets prowl the shoreline for food. Apple snails and their eggs are another common sight. A watchful eye might even catch sight of grass carp “tailing” through the eel grass beds.
Paddlers won’t notice an overabundance of noisy motor boats while on the pond due largely to the vast number of stumps that lie just beneath the surface of the water. This gives rise to a common word many will hear on the pond – stumpknockers, which can refer to the Spotted Sunfish or the act of running into one of these submerged stumps.
Crystal Blue Springs and Subterranean Caverns
It’s an easy hour and a half paddle from the dam to the upper section of the pond where the effort is rewarded with a view of Jackson Blue Spring, a first magnitude spring producing over 86 million gallons per day. The surrounding park, complete with slides, floating docks, swim area, paddle boats, beach and volley ball court, is maintained by Jackson county.
Seven-hundred yards away from Jackson Blue is Shangri-la Spring, a smaller but equally beautiful spring. Take a break to swim or snorkel in the springs and don’t be alarmed if a diver pops out of the openings. Merritt Mill Pond is a mecca for cave diving, attracting cave divers from around the world. There are six known caves on the lake with the possibility of many more waiting to be discovered. Only certified cave divers should attempt the caves.
Put-in Locations for Merritt Mill Pond
There are several put-in options for Merritt Mill Pond, the first being located at Arrowhead Campground on U.S. Hwy 90 near the dam where recreationists may put in for a very nominal fee ($2 as of this publication.) Closer to the upper section of the pond is a public boat ramp located on Hunters Fish Camp Road. To get there take U.S. Hwy 90 to S.R. 71 and follow it for 1.1 miles to S.R. 164. Turn right on S.R. 164 and follow it 1.8 miles on S.R. 164 to Hunters Fish Camp Road. The boat ramp is .06 miles.
A third put-in option is Jackson Blue Springs Recreation Area, however, the park is only operational during the summer months from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The park does not have an official boat ramp so canoes and kayaks must be launched from shore opposite the roped-off swimming area.
Arrowhead Campground; 4820 U.S. Highway 90 East, Marianna, FL 32446 (850) 482-5583
This article is copyrighted by Beverly Hill