The first visit was a bust (March 2010) due to the flooding of the Suwannee. Apparently this happens fairly regularly, so be sure to check ahead to make sure the Springs are open and clear.
The second visit was a pleasant surprise and did not disappoint. I sort of forgot that the park was maintained/owned by Gilchrist county (and thus had an entrance fee), but my $4 was well worth it a few minutes later. The facilities for changing were very nice, and the concession stand wasn't half bad either! With two vents, even the number of people didn't deter me from hopping in and going for the more-eastern vent. While a little scary being all alone in the pool surrounding the boil of this vent, the depth was extraordinary. I was able to dive a good 15 to 20 feet before reaching a horizontal cave gushing clear water. Visibility wasn't great due to all the vegetation, but I'm not sure why the spring showed so little use. I was pleased.
Rather than exit at the beach and walk to the other vent, I chose to swim the gap. Visibility in this area wasn't quite up to what I expected, but it was mostly due to the crowds and sand being kicked up. Swimming a few feet under the surface gave me a better if darker view, spotting many schools of fish darting around unsuspecting visitors. After a quick breath under the bridge I arrived at the pool for the second vent.
I see now why it was more populated and fresh: the walkway above the sharp banks opened a tiny bit to allow jumpers access directly over the boil. It was more difficult to swim in this area due to that fact, but the clarity and force of the water made up for it. Check out the photos below for July 2010; the clarity of some of the later shots is amazing.
A boardwalk takes visitors out to the Suwannee which flows by just a quarter-mile from the springs. Had the mosquitoes and heat not been as bad I may have snapped more shots, but it is nice to take a step away from the crowds and see a seemingly different ecosystem.
Overall, Hart Springs surprised me. I think it's only downside is its location: fairly far from I-75 for hoppers from the east. However, if you ever end up in the High Springs / Suwannee River area, stop by. Just make sure it's in the summer!
My first visit to the spring was a dud; although the adventure to the location was indeed fun, the spring was flooded (check the March 2010 photos for the evidence). In fact, it took me a good ten minutes to find where the boil would have been and realized that the Suwannee had flooded at least a good 4-5 feet. The sandbags on the sides of the pool were under a foot of tannic water.
I was anticipating the second visit much more but I was unfortunately let down. The lack of local interest and funding/ownership has let this spring eat itself with vegetation and overgrowth, so much so that the entire cave is covered in some kind of loosely-fitted algae and grass. I took one dive through the cave and kicked up enough of it that my camera could no longer focus on or see anything nearby. The run is nice however, and due to the relatively low crowds, some good isolated relaxation can occur.
Bottom line here is that this is as close as you will get to a spring that has good parking and good privacy. Other than that, it's not really worth much of your time.