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WEST CENTRAL FLORIDA SITES
CITRUS COUNTY SITES:
CHASSAHOWITZKA SPRINGS – (N28° 42.919 W82° 34.585) pottery fragments in the main boil of Chassahowitzka identify it as an early Deptford archaeological site. Depth of the tide-influenced spring is 22 ft., and local residents have used it for swimming. During the Civil War, the many spring-fed creeks of this river were used by blockade-runners; especially the lower reaches, where present day Potter, Crawford, North and South Blind Creeks can be canoed or reached by small boat. The river itself is clear, teaming with fish, and there are many dive and snorkel opportunities to be found in the spring-fed creeks. Like the main spring at the boat-ramp, most have archaeological evidence in them. The boat ramp is located at the end of Hwy. 480, off of Hwy. 19, in the park area of the CHASSAHOWITZKA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, there is a small parking and launch fee. Well worth the trip!
CHASSAHOWITZKA SINK – is off the end of W. Chassahowitzka Street (the first road S. of the intersection of Hwy. 19, 98, & 480 yellow blinker leading west), and is one of those places known only to locals. When you get to the end of W. Chassahowitzka, go straight on the dirt road, as you can see from the picture, the sink is ahead, but you’ll have to curve to the right somewhat to get there. This sink is huge -- likely to be a virgin site -- and probably harbors Paleo-Indian artifacts, possibly more! Doubtful anyone has ever metal detected here before!
HOMOSSASA SPRINGS & RIVER – (N28° 48.01 W82° 35.312) is a major archaeological site (shell mounds all along the river) as well as a treasure site. In the 1850’s – 60’s a sugar mill was located here that you can still visit today (on CR 490A) and its owner’s house (Sen. David Yulee) was burned by a Union naval detachment (on Tiger Tail Island). A blockade runner (the Good Hope) was sunk off Greenleaf Key, its remains laying in a small oyster bed, with its cargo (thrown off by Yankees) laying scattered in the sands at all points of the compass. At the headspring is a tourist attraction, worth visiting for its underwater viewing room alone. During the 1920’s thousands of people visited the spring to swim as it was touted as one of the mineral springs good for health. Part of the swim area is near the CR 490A bridge over a river fork.
YULEE SUGAR MILL SITE & CANAL -- (N28° 47.261 W82° 36.381) is just off of W. Yulee Drive. This was the sugar mill the Union was after when a raiding party burned Yulee's house on Tiger Tail Island (about 3 miles downriver) while looking for it. To the N. of the site is a canal dug by slaves when the mill was built, and I suspect it is probably loaded with crockery etc., as it has long been filled in with silt from non-use. The best bet for the diver would be to search the area where the canal meets the Homosassa River, as the river keeps the bottom somewhat clean. There must be many an old artifact here and below Tiger Tail Island, as the mill was built in the 1850's.
CRYSTAL RIVER -- this river is a hotbed of diver activity in the summertime. Most divers' attention is centered on King's spring, just south of Banana Island. Here, boats have moored for years above the grassy beds surrounding King's, Grand Canyon, and Mullet's Gullet Springs, while their owners lost many valuable articles when they slipped over the side for a peek. Cameras, watches, dive gear, and much gold jewelry can be found, not in the rocky springs themselves, by searching the grass beds for metal. Grass bed searching can be tedious work without a metal detector to fan just above the grass, because the grass is impenetrable to casual hand fanning. On the third oyster reef off the mouth of Crystal River is a Confederate Blockade Runner, sunk hastily under fire, and two more were sunk in the closing days of the war offshore, though they were being towed and it is surmised empty.
HUNTER'S SPRING -- This is the real place to go for the treasure diver! During the summertime, hundreds of people come to this public beach to frolic in the spring. Depth's are to 20 ft., and most of the valuables are centered on the east and northeast sides of the spring.
FORT COOPER -- off Hwy. 41 in Inverness, is now a State Recreation Area, with the usual rules and pay station for getting in. The Fort-site is on the extreme west edge of the lake, overlooking what used to be a boiling spring. On the S. side of the lake is a Paleo-site, and directly opposite is the public beach. The Florida drought has nearly dried the lake up, it is the lowest I have ever seen it, so hunting artifacts is bound to be good. Mirroring Hwy. 41, is the old wagon trail to Fort King (Ocala), and this is worth trailing and metal detecting once off the state property.
HERNANDO COUNTY SITES:
WEEKI WACHEE SPRING & RIVER – (N28° 31.06 W82° 34.41) are visited, canoed, and scuba dived by hundreds of thousands each year. Many of the items illustrating this book came from this river. At the spring are two Indian mounds in which Nueva Cadiz trade beads have been found (made for only a short period of time in the 1500’s), along with other articles pinpointing this site as the route(s) of Panfillo Narvaez and Hernando DeSoto. The Weeki Wachee water attraction occupies the huge main spring, with hundreds of bathers tumbling into it from waterslides each hour in the summer. Although scuba is not permitted in the main spring, the areas beneath the waterslides can be hand-fanned with mask and snorkel. Along the river are many rope swings, dive platforms, and backwoods beaches to hunt with a metal detector.
HOSPITAL HOLE -- (N28° 31.837 W82° 37.402) a major dive destination, this 155-foot spring-sink is perfectly round, spring fed, and is the home to manatees and schools of fish year-round. From the CR.597 Bridge over the Weeki Wachee, look South to the public park boat ramps, put in, and go upstream 200 yards to the second bend of the river. The hole occupies the entire bend! At the bottom of the hole are many items left behind by fellow divers – watches, cameras, and enough dive gear to open a shop have been found here. A hydrogen sulfide layer at 70 ft. and the depths undoubtedly prevent most divers from retrieving lost articles. Fifty feet south of Hospital Hole is a small spring known for harboring fine examples of Paleo-Indian spear-points, as is the area just downriver. The small spring is very tight to get into, almost impossible to get out of. Don’t go in without help to get out!
SALT SPRING – (N28° 32.731 W82° 37.100) is located 600 feet W. of the intersection of SR. 50 & CR. 597 (Shoal Line Boulevard) 4 miles W. of the Weeki Wachee attraction, behind a broken down gate. This small spring has a perfectly round vent, a palm tree standing in the middle of the vent, a depth of 40 feet, and a tunnel system. Judging from the number of old coins that are found in the spring, it was the 1800’s swimming hole for the defunct port city of Bayport, and certainly is for the local teens of today!
SAWGRASS SPRING – (N28° 32.835 W82° 37.640) is a Paleo-Indian site, where many flint tools can be found by fanning to the bottom in the clear outflow of Sawgrass Spring. To get to the site, go west on CR 550 until you see the Mary’s Fish Camp sign on the S. side of the road. Take the first dirt road to the right (W.) off the fish camp road.
PINE ISLAND BEACH – (N28° 34.083 W82° 39.375) is off the end of Bayou Road, N. of the intersection with CR 550, almost at Bayport (the Bayport Inn is your landmark for the turn), and has been the site of numerous lost jewelry items. Among the items that advertised at one time or another is a gold chain, with a $1,000 reward for return advertised! This must have been one fine chain!
FIDDLER’S POINT – (N28° 31.70 W82° 40.08) was westernmost Confederate lookout post and rifle pit for the Bayport harbor.
CEDAR POINT – (N28° 31.20 W82° 40.17) is just south of Fiddler’s point, and was the site of a Paleo Indian camp around 7,000 bc.
JENKINS CREEK SIPHON SPRING – (N28° 29.882 W82° 38.543) is a very dangerous location to dive due to the siphon effect of the Gulf’s tidal flow! When the tide is coming in, there is an outflow from the spring. When the tide is going out, there is an inflow into the spring and to the Gulf. The inflow is so strong there is an occasional whirlpool on the surface of the water. You cannot overcome this suction, and other divers have not! The only time to dive is when the tide is coming in and the flow pushes you out. Jenkins Creek was the site of a Paleo-Indian camp, and was a swimming hole for some time, but with all the inherent dangers of a siphon spring – why? The spring is adjacent to the Jenkins Creek Public Beach and Recreation Area off of CR 595 (Shoal Line Boulevard) between Weeki Wachee and Hernando Beach.
MILITARY LANDING – (N28° 31.507 W82° 35.703) according to legend, troops taking part in the Brooksville raid disembarked for the overland trek from this site, although documents I have seen seem to support an overland trek directly from Bayport over a corduroy road and there is some evidence another group of troops may have advanced from the Salt Springs area at New Port Richey. One thing I do know for certain is that at least two gold rings have been lost in the water below the beach at this site. Boat or canoe can reach military landing, either by floating down the Weeki Wachee River from the attraction on Hwy. 19, or by motoring up the river from the park at the Shoal Line Boulevard (CR 595) overpass of the river.
P-NUT HOLES – (N28° 31.979 W82° 32.573) are popular dive spots for local divers, between Brooksville and the US 19 & Hwy. 50 intersection, on the N. side of Hwy. 50. Two sinks are connected underwater, forming a p-nut shaped chamber that has been a popular swimming hole for a century or more. Paleo-Indian artifacts have been found around the sinks, notably, Deptford period pottery. It is interesting to note that the best sink to dive in is located just over a rise behind the P-nut hole, but due to its being hidden, it is rarely explored.
BAYPORT WRECK – (N28° 32.009 W82° 39.127) was a 200’ side-wheel steamer carrying turpentine and rosin when it was burned to prevent capture by a Union boat crew. Not much left except the engine and a few gears. Please don’t bring any of the machinery up as it is completely impregnated with salts and will disintegrate in a few months if not preserved (process takes two years minimum). Another earlier Union expedition sank a sloop and schooner, which now lie in Centipede Bay, and under the Bayport fishing pier, respectively.
CROOM RAILROAD BRIDGE SITE: (N28° 35.45 W82° 13.36) In the 1890’s, a common site was the townsfolk of Brooksville coming out on the train in droves to frolic amongst the huge oak trees and swim in the river at this site. Opposite the Croom side, was the earlier ferry site’s owner’s house (a palatial estate) situated high on the hill above the small park now occupying his ferry. This ferry operator grew immensely wealthy on his tolls for crossing the river at the, and so far, his fortune in coins has not been found, but is probably buried close to the old mansion site. The pump house for the old mansion was still standing when I last visited in 1984. You can get to the Croom side of the site by taking the Croom-Rital Road N. from Hwy. 50 (between the Withlacoochee River and after Hwy. 75. Bridges) to an old railroad crossing (about 3 miles N.) that goes directly E. to the site. The old town of Croom was centered on the RR crossing.
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SITES:
HILLSBOROUGH RIVER – (N28° 03.268 W82° 21.821) can be reached by taking Fowler Avenue west off the I-275 bypass and taking Hidden Creek Drive off Fowler just west of the exit. Go due west to a small park with boat ramp and launch to go upriver. Scuba is not needed in the upper stretches of the Hillsborough, as most hunting is along the banks for Paleo-Indian spearpoints and fossil shark’s teeth.
LITHIA SPRING – (N27° 52.017 W82° 13.774) is located on Lithia Springs Road, off SR. 640, S. of Brandon off Hwy.60. This spring was a major attraction of the late 1800’s and Roaring 20’s eras! My Great Aunt Evelyn still talks about the parties and fairs held at the spring in the 20’s. The swimming activity was not in the spring at that time, but in the run next to its discharge into the Alafia River. Unfortunately, (until we band together and change things) there is no Scuba allowed, so this is one of the sites you’ll have to snorkel and fan to bedrock on a hit and miss basis. If there’s old gold jewelry and silver coins to be found anywhere – it’s here! Good Luck!
EGMONT KEY WHARF SITE -- (N27° 34.883 W82° 45.968) was used for Union ships during the island's occupation in the Civil War, and for sailing ships of the period. In addition to artifacts that may be found there, the wharf's concrete bunkers are used by swimmers as dive platforms today. This could be a very interesting place to dive!
PASCO COUNTY SITES:
CRYSTAL SPRINGS -- (N28° 10.95 W82° 11.11) is in a family run camping preserve. There are many individual vents forming a 400-ft. pool that has been a magnet for thousands of bathers. The pool is dammed on one side to give an 8-ft. depth at the some of the spring vents on the E. end of the pool. There used to be a diving board at this location! This site is probably worth a look, because of the large number of swimmers visiting it, and the fact that recreational divers neglect it. Crystal Springs are located S. of Zephyrhills on Crystal Springs Road.
JEWFISH SPRING -- (N28° 25.76' W82° 42.53') This was Jack Dempsey and Babe Ruth’s fishing and drinking hole ½ mi. in the Gulf, off Fillman’s Bayou, just S. of their fishing camp hideaway in Aripeka. It is loaded with all kinds of fish. The spring is 209 feet deep, and has a sharp thermalcline at 50 feet that is unbelievable, at 58 degrees. Although there are Paleo-Indian spearpoints around the spring, and undoubtedly some at the bottom, this is not a dive for the unwary or inexperienced!
SALT SPRING – (N28° 17 558 W82° 43.073) is one of those hidden sites that have much history associated with it. The spring is located almost directly behind the Gulfview Square Mall, in New Port Richey, in a dense thicket, and was once the site of a Confederate salt making operation, a still, and a prehistoric Paleo-Indian village. The spring itself supposedly has a 200 ft. cave system associated with it, and millions of years of outflow has cut a natural bridge through the limerock, where you can still see the remnants of a wagon road. When I stepped out of my jeep to look at the site, I tripped over a 1942 mercury dime, lying right on top of the ground! I am surprised this isn’t a state park by now.
SUICIDE SINK -- Off Hays road is a 227-foot deep sink frequented by cave divers and local swimmers. The primary interest to treasure hunters is the well-worn slide positioned at the corner of the sink’s pond. From the looks of all the camping accoutrements around the sink, this is an often-visited site, but a dangerous one. I came across the site after a report in the local paper that one of the cave divers (an epileptic) had drowned while diving alone.
KELLY SINK – another dangerous dive off CR 578 (County Line Road) on Kelly Street at its first bend to the east. The sink is in the NE. corner of a small (dried at the time I visited) lake. The sink reportedly has an extensive tunnel system with fossilized bones in the tunnel walls. There have been two lives lost here that I know of – very dangerous and for advanced cave divers only!
LACOOCHEE (Coulter Hammock Park)-- (N28° 27.855 W82° 08.147) -- this is one of the old sawmill towns that sprang up in the late 1800's. At the end of Lacoochee Park Road is Coulter Hammock Park, on the banks of the Withlacoochee River. A rope swing has been here off and on for a hundred years (at least as far back as residents can remember) at this communities' traditional swimming hole. Just before you get to the river, is a turnaround on the N. side of the road, where a home dating back to the Seminole Indian Wars (1830’s) once stood.
NORTH ANCLOTE KEY – A bait netter lost a chain valued over $1000 when the cast net he was throwing tangled with the necklace and he tossed the gold chain and pendant into the water. This is but one of the many gold items lost here over the years. Anclote Key has been on Spanish charts (kedge key) since the 1500’s, and there are two shipwrecks just off the beach on the SW side (facing Tampa bay), and one on the extreme S. tip. Much history is associated with this key, and it is visited by thousands of boating picnickers each year. An 1800’s lighthouse still stands on the S. end of the key.
HEART SPRING – (N20° 20.25 W82° 43.45) -- Paleo-Indian spearpoints have been found all around this small Gulf spring.
HOLLIDAY SPRINGS – (N28° 21.60 W82° 42.163) is a series of three springs and sinks that once formed the harbor of Hudson in the 1880’s. Many old bottles line the bottom of the springs and bay area! Access is by boat, but to scout the spring, take Hudson Avenue west off US 19 in Hudson to the Holliday Springs trailer park. The springs are easily seen from the park. To get to the springs by boat – launch at the public boat ramp at the Hudson recreational area, (south on Old Dixie, which intersects Hudson Avenue) and work your way around to the springs.
MOON LAKE DUDE RANCH AND PUBLIC BEACH – (N28° 17.032 W82° 36.420) was the site of a 1930’s dude ranch visited by the wealthy and movie stars of that era. The county has built a public beach and boat ramp on the East Side of the lake; however, the old dude ranch beach was located on the N. side of the lake. To get to the site, take SR. 587 off of Hwy. 52, east of New Port Richey, to Lake. Lake will wind around Moon Lake to the public beach and boat ramp.
OLD CUMMER CAMP -- (N28° 19.912 W82° 06.642) -- from the 1900's to the mid 1970's, the Cummer Logging Company kept a camp (recreation) area for its employees and friends on the Withalacoochie River, east of Dade City. To get to the camp, take River Road east from Dade City to the Withalacoochie Bridge and canoe S. to the camp on the E. side of the river. The bridge itself is a very old site, with a county park on the southwest side.
PINELLAS COUNTY SITES:
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- (N27° 52.66 W82° 51.06) This is "the beach" for locals. There is much jewelry lost here every year, with rewards for return posted in the paper almost daily. Though not well known, Indian Rocks Beach also produces fine examples of fossilized shark’s teeth. Nothing is needed to find them, but sifting the sand with a spaghetti colander increases your chances astronomically. In general -- investigate anything black as a fossil find!
HOWARD BEACH -- dozens of gold objects of all descriptions are lost each summer and advertised as return for reward!
CRYSTAL BEACH SPRING – (N28° 05.10' W82° 47.12') although hard to tell it today, this fine boiling spring, teaming with mangrove snapper, was once was the site of an 1800’s pier and beach. It is just 200 feet off Crystal Beach (no beach now – just homes) in the Gulf.
HONEYMOON ISLAND BEACHES -- hundreds of items of lost jewelry are routinely advertised for reward in the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times each year, lost on these popular beaches. The most popular spot is the causeway beach, and hundreds of people use the causeway nearest the island as a diving platform each summer. Much gold must be in the passes beneath these causeways, but extreme caution would have to be used in metal detecting under them, fly a flag, and have someone in the boat at a minimum. In winter, boat traffic slows down to almost nil.
CLEARWATER BEACH -- a major swim destination for locals and tourists from around the world, a literal fortune in gold jewelry is deposited here every year! A large searchcoil is recommended when scuba metal detecting in the pattern shown in the "how to" section.
BELLEAIR BEACH TO ST. PETERSBURG BEACH & SPOIL ISLANDS -- much gold jewelry is lost on the beaches, and is especially concentrated in the shallow waters around spoil islands that boat and jetski operators use.
MULLET KEY / FT. DeSoto PARK -- visited by thousands in the summer each day, this vast park is the repository of treasures from aboriginal man to modern times. A boat ramp on the eastern side of the park opens up the entire Tampa Bay region and Egmont Key to the boater.
ONLY YOU CAN KEEP IT FLYING & PHOTOGRAPHING!
ORDER YOUR T-SHIRTS!
Maps for the serious . . .
TAME ME BACK TO "TREASURE DIVE SITES"
TAME ME BACK TO "TREASURE DIVE SITES"
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ÓMatt Mattson, 1997, 1998, 1999 all rights reserved.
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