Williford Spring on Econfina Creek a cool family destination

A hot summer day creates a mist over the cool water of Williford Spring. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

A hot summer day creates a mist over the cool water of Williford Spring. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Park features include swimming area, picnic pavilions, grills, boardwalks, and restrooms

The Northwest Florida Water Management District has completed restorations of Williford Spring in southern Washington County, Florida.

The $1.52 million project improved water quality and protected the shoreline of Williford Spring. Recreational enhancements include spring entry steps, patio terrace, spring view deck, canoe dock, boardwalks, composting toilets, picnic pavilions, parking area, a connector trail to Pitt and Sylvan springs, as well as interpretative trails and native landscaping throughout the site.

Picnic pavilions at Williford Spring include bbq grills. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Click here to download PDF of site development illustration

Williford Spring is located in the Econfina Creek Water Management Area between SR 77 and U.S. 231 off of Herman Strickland/Porter Pond Road. ::MAP::

Boardwalk to canoe/kayak dock. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Boardwalk to canoe/kayak dock. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

About Williford spring:
Williford Spring has a circular spring pool in a conical depression whose sand bottom is rippled by issuing spring currents. The pool measures 57 ft. in diameter. The vent is under a limestone ledge roughly in the center of the pool, and the depth measured over the vent is 10.1 ft. There is a sizable boil over the vent, and the color of the water is light blue-green. There is no aquatic vegetation in the pool, and a thin layer of algae covers less than half of the limestone and sand substrates. Williford Spring discharges through a swiftly flowing spring run that travels south for approximately 443 ft.into Econfina Creek.

There are numerous other smaller springs that feed into Williford Spring run immediately downstream. Some of these springs are small trickles from limestone fissures exposed along the banks of the run. To the north and west of Williford Spring, high ground rises to approximately 15 feet above the water surface. A lowland forest of hardwoods, cypress and palms hug the spring and its run. The surrounding rolling sand hills terrain supports mixed hardwood and pine uplands.

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Melt the butter; spiny lobster seasons start July 27

Species of lobster found in Florida (left to right): Caribbean spiny lobster, smooth tail spiny lobster, spotted spiny lobster.

Species of lobster found in Florida (left to right): Caribbean spiny lobster, smooth tail spiny lobster, spotted spiny lobster.

Two-day season July 27-28, regular season Aug. 6 – March 31

The 2016 spiny lobster season opens with the two-day recreational sport season July 27 and 28, followed by the regular commercial and recreational lobster season, which starts Aug. 6 and runs through March 31.

Planning on catching some of these tasty crustaceans? Here is what you need to know before you go.

No one wants a small lobster for dinner. Make sure you check the size. Measuring devices are required, and lobsters harvested while diving must be measured while they are in the water. If the carapace length is not larger than 3 inches, it must be left in the water (see image on how to measure spiny lobster).

To protect the next generation and your future chances to have lobster for dinner, harvest of egg-bearing females is prohibited. Lobsters have hundreds of thousands of eggs that are easily visible and attached under the tail. While most lobsters have completed reproduction by the start of the fishing season, finding lobsters with eggs is common in July and August.

Stick to the bag and possession limits so there will be enough lobsters for all your friends and family. During the two-day spiny lobster sport season, recreational divers and snorkelers can take up to six lobsters per person daily in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park waters or 12 lobsters per person daily in other Florida waters. You may possess no more than the daily bag limit of lobsters when you are on the water. When you are off the water, you may possess no more than the daily bag limit on the first day of the sport season and no more than double the daily bag limit on the second day. See the chart for an easy-to-read guide on the two-day sport season bag limits. During the Aug. 6-to-March 31 regular season, the daily recreational bag and on-the-water possession limit is six spiny lobsters per person for all Florida waters.

 

Two-Day Sport Season Where? Daily bag limit and max number you can possess while on the water Max number you can possess off the water on July 27 Max number you can possess off the water on July 28
  Monroe Co. and Biscayne National Park 6 6 12
  All other Florida waters 12 12 24

While the waters may be less crowded at night, diving for spiny lobsters after the sun goes down is not allowed in Monroe County during the two-day sport season.

Know where you can go. Lobster harvest is always prohibited in Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne Bay/Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary, certain areas of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and no-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. During the two-day season, all harvest of lobster is prohibited throughout John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Visit FloridaKeys.NOAA.gov/regs/mc_lobster.pdf to learn more about areas in Monroe County that are open to spiny lobster harvest.

Bring a cooler big enough to hold the entire lobster. Spiny lobsters must remain in whole condition until they are brought to shore. Also, do not take spiny lobster with any device that might puncture, penetrate or crush its shell.

Have the proper paperwork. A recreational saltwater fishing license and a spiny lobster permit are required to recreationally harvest spiny lobsters unless you are exempt from recreational license requirements. Information about these licenses and permits is available online at MyFWC.com/License or you may purchase your license today at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.

Do double duty while you are in the water and remove invasive lionfish. These nonnative species are often found in the same areas as spiny lobster, and they negatively impact Florida’s native wildlife and habitat. Help keep the lionfish population under control by removing them from Florida waters. If you plan to take lionfish with a spear, be aware of no-spearing zones and always check with your local law enforcement agency before planning your spearfishing trips. Visit MyFWC.com/Lionfish to learn more or to participate in the Lionfish Challenge reward program.

Safety first. Divers, even those who wade in, should stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down warning device (red with a white diagonal stripe on a flag or buoy, for example) when in open water and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down warning device if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. Boat operators must slow to idle speed if they need to travel within 300 feet of a divers-down warning device in open water or 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel.

Divers-down warning symbols displayed on vessels must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches. If you are using a flag, a stiffener is required to keep it unfurled and it must be displayed from the highest point of the vessel, must be visible from all directions and must be displayed only when divers are in the water. So when the divers are out of the water, don’t forget to take it down. Divers-down symbols towed by divers must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches. More information on divers-down warning devices is available online at MyFWC.com/Boating by clicking on “Boating Regulations.”

Additional information on recreational spiny lobster fishing, including how to measure spiny lobster, is available online at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lobster.”

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Choctawhatchee Audubon Society meeting Aug. 4

CAScolorlogoThe Choctawhatchee Audubon Society’s monthly meeting will focus on the natural history and conservation of the Bahama Parrot. Although the Bahama Parrot is one of the closest native parrots to the United States, people rarely know of this species. Dr. Caroline Stahala has been conducting behavioral and demographic studies on this parrot for 14 years now and will be presenting on the species’ natural history. This parrot exhibits a unique behavior in that it nests underground in limestone solution cavities. This also poses unique management challenges which other parrots do not face. The Bahamas National Trust has addressed this challenge as well as other conservation issues through its management. Join us to learn more about the Bahama Parrot, a charismatic and unique bird species.

The meeting will be held in room 130 of the student services building 400 at the Northwest Florida State College Niceville campus. Socializing begins at 6:30 p.m. and the program at 7:00 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. Call or e-mail Dr Don Baltz at 255 252-2760, [email protected]. For more information

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New enhancements installed at Choctaw Beach Park

New boat ramp at Choctaw Beach Park. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

New boat ramp at Choctaw Beach Park. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The long awaited improvements to the Choctaw Beach Park and boat ramp have been completed. The project consisted of construction of a new more accessible boat ramp, improved paved parking area and the construction of new bathroom facilities. Walton County Facility Maintenance crews have also provided some additional landscaping to the site.

Funding for the project was provided by the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission through the Florida Boating Improvement Program, and the Board of County Commissioners.

More than a boat ramp, the Choctaw Beach Park offers a playground, boardwalk with seating, and spectacular sunsets. ::Map::

The park is located at 12481 State Highway 20 West, Freeport, FL 32435.

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Health advisory issued for Morrison Springs July 20

healthdeptlogoUPDATE July 22 -Effective immediately, the Florida Department of Health in Walton County is rescinding the July 20, 2016 health advisory for the Morrison Springs bathing place.

DOH Walton feels that water quality in this area has improved considerably due to the reduction in bacteria levels.

DOH will continue to monitor the water quality in this area monthly and routinely advise the public of results.  For more information, contact the DOH Walton at 850-892-8021.

Walton County July 20, 2016 – A health advisory is issued for Morrison Springs.  The Advisory is issued based on the criteria for fecal indicator bacteria.

This should be considered a potential health risk to the bathing public and swimming is not recommended.  Samples taken are above the public health threshold for fecal indicator bacteria. Water quality exceedances are based upon the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recommended standard of no more than 61 Enterococci CFU/100mL, or 235 E. coli CFU/100mL in any single sample.  Sample results for July 20, 2016, indicate 364 and 220 Enterococci CFU/100ml.

The water will be re-sampled next week. When re-sampling indicates that the water is within the satisfactory range, the advisory will be lifted.

The Florida Department of Health in Walton County monitors monthly water samples submitted by public bathing places during their operation season. The water samples are being analyzed for enteric bacteria (fecal coliform enterococci or E. coli) that normally inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and warm- blooded animals, and indicate the presence of pathogens which may cause swimming related diseases including gastrointestinal disease, ear and eye ailments, and skin rashes and infections. The presence of fecal indicator bacteria is an indication of fecal pollution, which may come from storm water runoff, domestic pets, wildlife, and human waste (sewage).

Sampling is also conducted by other county health departments at marine beaches and results can be found at Department of Health’s Beach Water Quality website at www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/beach-water-quality/index.html.

For more information, contact the Florida Department of Health in Walton County (850) 892-8021.

About the Florida Department of Health
The department works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.

Follow them on Twitter at @HealthyFla and on Facebook. For more information about the Florida Department of Health please visit www.FloridaHealth.gov.

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Walton County fishing report for July 20

RedfishFishing is good

Bay: Great trout and redfish bite.

River: Good flathead catfish bites along with an abundance of mullet at the mouth of the river.

Some frog gigging at night.

Click here for fishing forecast

Bay and river report brought to you by Copeland’s. “Where the locals shop and the tourists are welcome.”

Click here to find out more about Copeland’s.
Copeland’s Gun and Tackle Shop
17290 U.S. Hwy. 331 S
Freeport, Florida 32439

(850) 835-4277
Store hours:
Mon. – Fri.: 6 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Sat.: 6 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sun.: Closed

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View the sun and the stars at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park July 30

starsDate/time: July 30, 2016 – 4:30 – 9:30 p.m.

Topsail Hill Preserve State parks invites your family to enjoy Topsail under the Stars. View the sun and stars from the park with the Northwest Florida Astronomy Association. The NWFAA will be onsite with solar telescopes set up for instruction on how to view the constellations, the sun, and planets after sunset. There will be plenty of telescopes but you are welcome to bring your own. The park entrance closes at 8 p.m. so please arrive before then. Enter the park through the main gate and park staff will direct you to the field by Tram Stop 1.

Free entry to the park through Sept. 5. Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is located at 7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459. For more information, call (850) 267-8330 ::MAP::

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