Savannah River Ecology Laboratory
Herpetology Program
Herp Home
Herps of SC/GA
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Stop #18: Rainbow Springs State Park, FL
Featured Herp: Hognose Snakes (genus Heterodon)

Rainbow Springs and Rainbow River southern hognose eastern hognose
Rainbow Springs Southern Hognose
(Heterodon simus)
Eastern Hognose
(Heterodon platyrhinos)

Heading north from Tampa the East Aiken students notice a recurring aquatic theme in the regional names: Land'O'Lakes, Spring Lake, Crystal Springs, Weeki Wachee Springs, Homasassa Springs, Citrus Springs. River names—Homasassa, Withlacochee, Chassahowitza—gush from the kids' mouths like the rivers from the ground. Even their destination, Rainbow Springs State Park, sounds wet. It’s only appropriate for an area, from the eastern Florida panhandle down through the Central Highlands, that has more springs than any other comparably sized region in the world. Aside from mermaids, does there seem to be a connection here? Why all the "springs?"

diagram of spring geology
southeastern distribution (eastern hognose)southeastern distribution (southern hognose)

The answer of course lies in the geology of this region of Florida. Throughout most of its history the platform of rock that comprises Florida has been under water as part of the continental shelf. Over millions and millions of years a gradual buildup of calcium carbonate occurred, chiefly from the accumulation of deposits from organisms such as coral, shellfish, and one-celled marine animals. Limestone, a type of sedimentary rock, formed from these accumulations. The limestone layer became hundreds, even thousands, of feet thick. Thin layers of clay and sand sediments from Appalachian streams to the north of present day Florida were deposited over the limestone. When sea levels fell millions of years later, Florida finally emerged from the sea as part of the North American mainland.

The main component of limestone, the mineral calcite, is easily dissolved by water that contains carbonic acid. As limestone is dissolved huge caves, small cavities, and interconnecting underground passages can be formed. Underground water contained in the rock layers (aquifers) sometimes comes up through the cracks and passages emerges at the surface in springs or sinkholes. Florida has thousands of springs, with the top 300 springs discharging more than 8 billion gallons of water per day.

East Aiken arrived at Rainbow Springs on January 22, 2000.

>Hognose Snake Fact Sheet

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