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Salt Springs Run (Site 28)

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The Route

The Bartram party left their campsite on the west shore of Lake George on the morning of January 24, 1766 and continued rowing along the shoreline until they arrived at Salt Springs Run.  The authors of Florida History Online site their campsite of January 23 at Lisk Point, at the southern end of Salt Cove, about two and a half miles along the shoreline from the mouth of the run.  They proceeded up the run and discovering Salt Springs, spent some time examining the spring and the surrounding area.  With their survey completed, they returned to their battoe and headed back towards Lake George. After rowing the 5.7 miles from Salt Springs to Rocky Point where the lake empties into the river, they undoubtedly took this west channel of the St. Johns between the west shore of the river and Drayton Island which afforded the most direct route north.  They continued rowing north and crossed the river to the island where they found some “rocky rising ground” along the bank and stopped to camp. (See Images Tab - Figure 2)

The Site

The Bartrams identified present-day Salt Run as Johnson’s Spring.  The mouth of the creek where it entered Lake George on the west shore was estimated to be about 80 yards wide.  Once in the run, they found it widened to about 200 yards.  Almost two and a half centuries later, the configuration of the run has either changed somewhat, or John Bartram’s estimates were somewhat off.  The mouth of the run is only half the width recorded in the Journal and though it only opens to a hundred yards just upstream of its mouth, it does have short reaches where its width exceeds two hundred yards.  The length of the run, from the spring head to Lake George is only 4.3 miles; considerably shorter than the seven mile estimate John was provided.  It could be that the plethora of aquatic vegetation in the run made rowing those four miles seem like twice the distance. (See Images Tab - Figure 3.)

It is apparent from the Journal entry that they had previous knowledge of the spring and its run since the estimate of the length of the run (seven miles) is presented as hearsay rather than an observation.  John did observe however that the run varied from 3 to 5 feet deep over its course from the lake to the spring.  He also noted that the spring run was at about the same elevation as the lake, a characteristic typical of the tributaries of the St. Johns River but quite different from those he would have been familiar with associated with other river systems along the eastern seaboard.

As they progressed up the run, they observed pine land, marsh, cypress swamps and oak hammocks – a full range of Florida ecosystems.  They observed numerous fish, and particularly the stingray; a saltwater organism that is noteworthy since it is still found here and in Lake George over 110 miles distant from the sea.  The Journal entry also mentions the presence of aquatic grasses growing from the bottom of the clear spring run and topping out at its surface.  This grass would have been Valisneria americana, or tape grass, the dominant species of aquatic plant found throughout the St. Johns River.

The Route

As previously mentioned, various records indicate that William made two trips up river from Spalding’s Lower Store in 1774 however, in Travels the two experiences are combined and described as a single trip.  In this account of his journey, he describes leaving his campsite on the west shore of Lake George about two miles south of Silver Glen Springs and soon, finding the lake’s dark waters suddenly clear, discovers and proceeds up the source of the clear water: Six Mile Springs Run – today’s Salt Springs Run.   

In this account, he established his camp near the springs and spent some time exploring the surrounding lands, collecting plants recording observations.  The following morning, he broke camp and proceeded down the run back to Lake George.  He described crossing Salt Cove at the northwest corner of Lake George and making landfall at Rocky Point at the northwest entrance of the St. Johns River.  After conducting a brief exploration of the area around the point, his route continued up the west channel of the St. Johns towards Mount Royal but stopped on Drayton Island where he established his camp and spent the night.  (See Images Tab - Figure 4)  

The account of his visit to Salt Springs recorded in his Report varies considerably from that provided in his Travels.  In this account, it was during this second upstream (southbound) trip that he describes proceeding up Salt Springs Run to the spring (p. 161). In this account he passed by Drayton Island without stopping as he headed south onto Lake George and was promptly forced into Salt Springs run due to “wind rising very fresh.”  There being very little probability of his crossing the lake, he (and his companions) continued up the run to the Springs.  Here he spent most of the remaining day observing the flora and fauna in the spring and exploring the surrounding area. That evening he returned to the mouth of the run where he established his camp for the night.  The following day proceeded south and by nightfall arrived at Spalding’s Upper Store.  During his return from this second trip up the St. Johns, he describes visiting today’s Silver Glen Springs (which he calls Johnsons Spring) and from there sailing past Salt Springs Run directly to Drayton Island where he collected plants and seeds, but left the island before nightfall and established a camp at Rocky Point rather than on Drayton Island.

The Site

Salt Springs Run and its source, Salt Springs are important Bartram sites.  Regardless of the account one prefers (Travels vs. the Report) it is apparent that Salt Springs and its run had made quite an impression on young William during his first visit to Florida in 1765 as he made it a point to return to the spring during his return visit.  He collected a number of plant specimens which he sent back to Spalding’s Lower Store before he continued his journey south.  

Salt Springs and its run can be accessed both by water and by road.  They are now located within the Ocala National Forest and are a designated Recreation Area.  There are facilities at the Spring including a campsite and boat launch.  (See website link on Resources Tab) There is an entrance fee to visit the Recreation Area and the spring by road, however both may be accessed by water free of charge.

Salt Springs Run Marina and Landing, located in the Ocala National Forest at the head of Salt Springs Run has a boat ramp and canoe/kayak launch available to the public but charges a nominal parking fee for those using the facilities.  They also have a variety of boat rentals available to the public. (See website link on Resources Tab)   

"Moderate clear morning; rowed early by a bank of pine-land for several miles and some cypress-swamps, then came to a large creek called Johnson’s Spring, the west end of the lake about 80 yards near broad, but after it widens to about 200; the pine-land comes pretty close to its banks, then a narrow low marsh interposes, and after we rowed higher up we saw narrow cypress-swamps, loblolly-bays, and some few oak hammocks; the creek abounds with fish, many stingrays near its mouth; it is supposed to run 7 miles from its head to the lake, where the bar is about 18 inches deep, but the creek is 3, 4, and 5 foot up to the spring, which is nearly level with the lake, and full of grass and weeds at the bottom, many of which reach to the top of the water, and are a great obstruction to boats in going up, without they keep directly in the channel; on the north side towards its head a large marsh brancheth out; we came at last to where the cat-tails and bull-rushes grew so thick, that we could not force the battoe through them, though it was 100 yards broad, and 3 or 4 foot deep, so clear that we could see the muscle-shells on its shelly bottom in patches 3 or 4 foot diameter between the great patches of grass and weeds; we landed to search the head springs, and passed through an orange-grove and an old field of the Florida Indians, then came to the main springs, where a prodigious quantity of very clear warm brackish water boiled up between vast rocks of unknown depth, we could not reach the bottom by a very long pole; this was on the north bank, about 12 foot high above the water, which spreads immediately 50 or 60 yards broad: We walked round the west end towards the south bank, where the bare flat rocks appeared above water, and a great stream boiled up of a salt and sourish taste, but not near so loathsome as several before-described, nor had it any bad smell, or whitish sediment as they; we examined the composition of the rocks, and found some of them to be a concrete redish sand, some whitish mixed with clay, others a ferruginous irregular concrete, and many a combination of all these materials with sea-shells, clams, and cockles; we found in the bank an ash-coloured tenacious earth, and a strata of yellow sand beneath; near here my son found a lovely sweet tree, with leaves like the sweet bay, which smelled like sassafras, and produce a very strange kind of seed-pod, but the seed was all shed, the severe frost had not hurt it; some of them grew near 20 foot high, a charming bright evergreen aromatic: We saw near the spring numbers of large garr, cats, mullets, trouts, and several other kinds unknown to us, some in chance of others, which run into the grass to hide them from their enemies; in going down to the lake the fish were continually jumping; we observed on the north end of the lake a hammock of oak.

We then steered our course to Bryan’s Island, on which there is some good land and rich swamp, with pretty much pine-land, it is supposed to contain about 1500 acres; here we encamped on a rocky rising ground, and found numbers of great and small oyster-shells, clams, perriwinkles, sea-muscles, and cockles, all cemented together with broken fragments, some ground as fine as coarse sand; they were all confusedly mixed and jumbled together as upon our sea-coast; first a strata of shells, then a strata of shells and fragments fill up the least cavity; it is remarkable that we never found any scallops to the south of Carolina, either on the coast or up in the country."

Page 159

THE morning being clear, I sat sail with a favourable breeze, coasting along the shores; when on a sudden the waters became transparent, and discovered the sandy bottom, and the several nations of fish, passing and repassing each other. Following
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this course I was led to the cape of the little river, descending from Six mile Springs, and meanders six miles from its source, through green meadows. I entered this pellucid stream, sailing over the heads of innumerable squadrons of fish, which, although many feet deep in the water, were distinctly to be seen; I passed by charming islets of flourishing trees, as Palm, Red Bay, Ash, Maple, Nussa and others. As I approached the distant high forest on the main, the river widens, floating fields of the green Pistia surrounded me, the rapid stream winding through them. What an alluring scene was now before me! A vast bason or little lake of chrystal waters, half encircled by swelling hills, clad with Orange and odoriferous Illisium groves. The towring Magnolia itself a grove, and the exalted Palm, as if conscious of their transcendent glories, tossed about their lofty heads, painting, with mutable shades, the green floating fields beneath. The social pratling coot enrobed in blue, and the squeeling water-hen, with wings half expanded, tripped after each other, over the watery mirror.

I PUT in at an ancient landing place, which is a sloping ascent to a level grassy plain, an old Indian field. As I intended to make my most considerable collections at this place, I proceeded immediately to fix my encampment but a few yards from my safe harbour, where I securely fastened my boat to a Live Oak which overshadowed my port.

AFTER collecting a good quantity of fire-wood, as it was about the middle of the afternoon, I resolved to reconoiter the ground about my encampment: having penetrated the groves next to me, I came to the open forests, consisting of exceedingly
Page 161

tall strait Pines (Pinus Palustris) that stood at a considerable distance from each other, through which appeared at N. W. an almost unlimited plain of grassy savannas, embellished with a chain of shallow ponds, as far as the sight could reach. Here is a species of Magnolia that associates with the Gordonia lasianthus; it is a tall tree, sixty or eighty feet in heighth; the trunk strait; its head terminating in the form of a sharp cone; the leaves are oblong, lanciolate, of a fine deep green, and glaucous beneath; the flowers are large, perfectly white and extremely fragrant; with respect to its flowers and leaves, it differs very little from the Magnolia glauca. The silvery whiteness of the leaves of this tree, had a striking and pleasing effect on the sight, as it stood amidst the dark green of the Quercus dentata, Nyssa sylvatica, Nys. aquatica, Gordonia lasianthus and many others of the same hue. The tall aspiring Gordonia lasianthus, which now stood in my view in all its splendour, is every way deserving of our admiration. Its thick foliage, of a dark green colour, is flowered over with large milk-white fragrant blossoms, on long slender elastic peduncles, at the extremities of its numerous branches, from the bosom of the leaves, and renewed every morning; and that in such incredible profusion, that the tree appears silvered over with them, and the ground beneath covered with the fallen flowers. It at the same time continually pushes forth new twigs, with young buds on them; and in the winter and spring the third year's leaves, now partly concealed by the new and perfect ones, are gradually changing colour, from green to golden yellow, from that to a scarlet, from scarlet to crimson; and lastly to a brownish purple, and then fall
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to the ground. So that the Gordonia lasianthus may be said to change and renew its garments every morning throughout the year; and every day appears with unfading lustre. And moreover, after the general flowering is past, there is a thin succession of scattering blossoms to be seen, on some parts of the tree, almost every day throughout the remaining months, until the floral season returns again. Its natural situation, when growing, is on the edges of shallow ponds, or low wet grounds on rivers, in a sandy soil, the nearest to the water of any other tree, so that in drouthy seasons its long serpentine roots which run near or upon the surface of the earth, may reach into the water. When the tree has arrived to the period of perfect magnitude, it is sixty, eighty or an hundred feet high, forming a pyramidal head. The wood of old trees when sawn into plank, is deservedly admired in cabinet-work or furniture; it has a cinnamon coloured ground, marbled and veined with many colours: the inner bark is used for dying a redish or sorrel colour; it imparts this colour to wool, cotton, linnen and dressed deer skins, and is highly esteemed by tanners.

THE Zamia pumila, the Erythryna corallodendrum and the Cactus opuntia grow here in great abundance and perfection. The first grows in the open pine forests, in tufts or clumps, a large conical strobile disclosing its large coral red fruit, which appears singularly beautiful amidst the deep green fern-like pinnated leaves.

THE Erythryna corallodendrum is six or eight feet high; its prickly limbs stride and wreathe about with singular freedom, and its spikes of crimson flowers have a fine effect amidst the delicate foliage.
Page 163

THE Cactus opuntia is very tall, erect and large, and strong enough to bear the weight of a man: some are seven or eight feet high: the whole plant or tree seems to be formed of great oval compressed leaves or articulations; those near the earth continually encrease, magnify and indurate as the tree advances in years, and at length lose the bright green colour and glossy surface of their youth, acquiring a ligenous quality, with a whitish scabrous cortex: every part of the plant is nearly destitute of aculea, or those fascicles of barbed bristles which are in such plenty on the common dwarf Indian Fig. The cochineal insect were feeding on the leaves: the female of this insect is very large and fleshy, covered with a fine white silk or cottony web, which feels always moist or dewy, and seems designed by nature to protect them from the violent heat of the sun. The male is very small in comparison to the female, and but very few in number, they each have two oblong pelucid wings. The large polypetalus flowers are produced on the edges of the last years leaves, are of a fine splendid yellow, and are succeeded by very large pear shaped fruit, of a dark livid purple when ripe: its pulp is charged with a juice of a fine transparent crimson colour, and has a cool pleasant taste, somewhat like that of a pomegranate; soon after eating this fruit the urine becomes of the same crimson colour, which very much surprises and affrights a stranger, but is attended with no other ill consequence, on the contrary, it is esteemed wholesome, though powerfully diuretic.

ON the left hand of those open forests and savannas, as we turn our eyes Southward, South-west and West, we behold an endless wild desert, the upper stratum of the earth of which is a fine white sand, with small pebbles, and at some distance appears entirely covered with low trees and shrubs of

Page 164

various kinds, and of equal heighth, as dwarf Sweet Bay (Laurus Borbonia) Olea Americana, Morus rubra, Myrica cerifera, Ptelea, Æsculus pavia, Quercus Ilex, Q. glandifer, Q. maritima, foliis obcunciformibus obsolete tribobis minoribus, Q. pumila, Rhamnus frangula, Halesia diptera, & Tetraptera, Cassine, Ilex aquifolium, Callicarpa Johnsonia, Erythryna corallodendrum, Hibiscus spinifex, Zanthoxilon, Hopea tinctoria, Sideroxilum, with a multitude of other shrubs, many of which are new to me, and some of them admirably beautiful and singular. One of them particularly engaged my notice, which, from its fructification I take to be a species of Cacalia. It is an evergreen shrub, about six or eight feet high, the leaves are generally somewhat cuniform, fleshly and of a pale whitish green, both surfaces being covered with a hoary pubescence and vesiculae, that when pressed feels clammy, and emits an agreeable scent; the ascendent branches terminate with large tufts or corymbes of rose coloured flowers, of the same agreeable scent; these cluster of flowers, at a distance, look like a large Carnation or fringed Poppy flower (Syngenesia Polyg. Oqul. Linn.) Cacalia heterophylla, foliis cuniformibus, carnosis, papil. viscidis.

HERE is also another species of the same genus, but it does not grow quite so large; the leaves are smaller, of a yet duller green colour, and the flowers are of a pale rose; they are both valuable evergreens.

THE trees and shrubs which cover these extensive wilds, are about five or six feet high, and seem to be kept down by the annual firing of the desarts, rather than the barrenness of the soil, as I saw a few large Live Oaks, Mulberry trees and Hickories,
Page 165

which evidently have withstood the devouring flames. These adjoining wild plains, forests and savannas, are situated lower than the hilly groves on the banks of the lake and river, but what should be the natural cause of it I cannot even pretend to conjecture, unless one may suppose that those high hills, which we call bluffs, on the banks of this great river and its lakes, and which support those magnificent groves and high forests, and are generally composed of shell and sand, were thrown up to their present heighth by the winds and waves, when the bed of the river was nearer the level of the present surface of the earth; but then, to rest upon such a supposition, would be admitting that the waters were heretofore in greater quantities than at this time, or that their present channels and receptacles are worn deeper into the earth.

I NOW directed my steps towards my encampment, in a different direction. I seated myself upon a swelling green knoll, at the head of the chrystal bason. Near me, on the left, was a point or projection of an entire grove of the aromatic Illisium Floridanum; on my right and all around behind me, was a fruitful Orange grove, with Palms and Magnolias interspersed in front, just under my feet was the inchanting and amazing chrystal fountain, which incessantly threw up, from dark, rocky caverns below, tons of water every minute, forming a bason, capacious enough for large shallops to ride in, and a creek of four or five feet depth of water, and near twenty yards over, which meanders six miles through green meadows, pouring its limpid waters into the great Lake George, where they seem to remain pure and unmixed. About twenty yards from the upper edge of the bason,
Page 166

and directly opposite to the mouth or outlet to the creek, is a continual and amazing ebullition, where the waters are thrown up in such abundance and amazing force, as to jet and swell up two or three feet above the common surface: white sand and small particles of shells are thrown up with the waters, near to the top, when they diverge from the center, subside with the expanding flood, and gently sink again, forming a large rim or funnel round about the aperture or mouth of the fountain, which is a vast perforation through a bed of rocks, the ragged points of which are projected out on every side. Thus far I know to be matter of real fact, and I have related it as near as I could conceive or express myself. But there are yet remaining scenes inexpressibly admirable and pleasing.

BEHOLD, for instance, a vast circular expanse before you, the waters of which are so extremely clear as to be absolutely diaphanous or transparent as the ether; the margin of the bason ornamented with a great variety of fruitful and floriferous trees, shrub and plants, the pendant golden Orange dancing on the surface of the pellucid waters, the balmy air vibrates the melody of the merry birds, tenants of the encircling aromatic grove.

AT the same instant innumerable bands of fish are seen, some cloathed in the most brilliant colours; the voracious crocodile stretched along at full length, as the great trunk of a tree in size, the devouring garfish, inimical trout, and all the varieties of gilded painted bream, the barbed catfish, dreaded sting-ray, skate and flounder, spotted bass, sheeps head and ominous drum; all in their seperate bands and communities, with free and unsuspicious intercourse performing their evolutions: there are no signs of enmity, no attempt to devour each other; the different bands seem peaceably and complaisantly to move a little aside, as it were to make room for others to pass by.

BUT behold yet something far more admirable, see whole armies descending into an abyss, into the mouth of the bubbling fountain, they disappear! are they gone forever? is it real? I raise my eyes with terror and astonishment,--I look down again to the fountain with anxiety, when behold them as it were emerging from the blue ether of another world, apparently at a vast distance, at their first appearance, no bigger than flies or minnows, now gradually enlarging, their brilliant colours begin to paint the fluid.

Now they come forward rapidly, and instantly emerge, with the elastic expanding column of chrystaline waters, into the circular bason or funnel, see now how gently they rise, some upright, others obliquely, or seem to lay as it were on their sides, suffering themselves to be gently lifted or born up, by the expanding fluid towards the surface, sailing or floating like butterflies in the cerulean ether: then again they as gently descend, diverge and move off; when they rally, form again and rejoin their kindred tribes.

THIS amazing and delightful scene, though real, appears at first but as a piece of excellent painting; there seems no medium, you imagine the picture to be within a few inches of your eyes, and that you may without the least difficulty touch any one of the fish, or put your singer upon the crocodile's eye, when it really is twenty or thirty feet under water.
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AND although this paradise of fish, may seem to exhibit a just representation of the peaceable and happy state of nature which existed before the fall, yet in reality it is a mere representation; for the nature of the fish is the same as if they were in lake George or the river; but here the water or element in which they live and move, is so perfectly clear and transparent, it places them all on an equality with regard to their ability to injure or escape from one another; (as all river fish of prey, or such as feed upon each other, as well as the unwieldy crocodile, take their prey by surprise; secreting themselves under covert or in ambush, until an opportunity offers, when they rush suddenly upon them:) but here is no covert, no ambush, here the trout freely passes by the very nose of the alligator and laughs in his face, and the bream by the trout.

BUT what is really surprising, that the consciousness of each others safety or some other latent cause, should so absolutely alter their conduct, for here is not the least attempt made to injure or disturb one another.

THE sun passing below the horizon, and night approaching, I arose from my seat, and proceeding on arrived at my camp, kindled my fire, supped and reposed peaceably. And rising early, employed the fore part of the day in collecting specimens of growing roots and seeds. In the afternoon, left these Ellisian springs and the aromatic graves, and briskly descend the pellucid little river, re-entering the great lake; the wind being gentle and fair for Mount Royal, I hoisted sail and successfully crossing the N. West bay, about nine miles, came to at Rocky Point, the West cape or promontory, as we enter the river descending towards Mount Royal:
Page 169

these are horizontal slabs or flat masses of rocks, rising out of the lake two or three feet above its surface, and seem an aggregate composition or concrete of sand, shells and calcarious cement; of a dark grey or dusky colour; this stone is hard and firm enough for buildings, and serve very well for light hand mill-stones; and when calcined affords a coarse lime; they lay in vast horizontal masses upon one another, from one to two or three feet in thickness, and are easily seperated and broke to any size or form, for the purpose of building. Rocky Point is an airy cool and delightful situation, commanding a most ample and pleasing prospect of the lake and its environs; but here being no wood, I re-embarked and sailed down a little farther to the island in the bay, where I went on shore at a magnificent grove of Magnolias and Oranges, desirous of augmenting my collections. Arose early next morning, and after ranging the groves and savannas, returned, embarked again, and descending, called at Mount Royal, where I enlarged my collections; and bidding adieu to the gentleman and lady, who resided here, and who treated me with great hospitality on my ascent up the river; arrived in the evening at the lower trading house.

Click the Image for a larger Image.

  • Figure 1. Excerpt from the 1908 USACE Nautical Chart of the St. Johns River showing river bathymetry along the west shoreline of Lake George from Silver (Glen) Springs to Drayton Island and showing the mouth of Salt Springs Run in Salt Cove.
  • Figure 2. The probable routes of the Bartrams to and from Salt (Johnson’s) Springs Run on January 24, 1766.
  • Figure 3. The probable routes of William Bartram to and from Salt Springs Run as described in both his Report and his Travels.
  • Figure 4. Likely route of William Bartram’s second trip north with stops at Silver Glen Springs and Drayton Island and a campsite near Rocky Point as described in his Report.

Links and References


Bartram, William. Travels Through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws; Containing An Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions, Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians. Embellished with Copper-Plates. James and Johnson Publishers. 1791.  Electronic Edition.


Harper, Francis, ed.  The Travels of William Bartram,  Naturalist’s Edition. Yale University Press.  New Haven.  1958.


Bartram, William. Annotated by Francis Harper.  Travels in Georgia and Florida, 1773-74; a report to Dr. John Fothergill.  Annotated by Francis Harper.  Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, n.s., Vol. XXXIII, Pt. II. Philadelphia, PA, 1943.


The Journal

Florida History Online “John Bartram’s Travels on the St. Johns River, 1765-1766.” May 2013.



Bartram, John.  Diary of a Journey through the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, from July 1, 1765, to April 10, 1766, annotated by Francis Harper. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, n.s., Vol. XXXIII, Pt. I. Philadelphia, PA, 1942.

Additional References

Florida History Online.  New World in a State of Nature; British Plantations and Farms on the St. Johns River, East Florida 1763-1784. May 2013


Bruce, F.W. Assistant Engineer, US Army Corps of Engineers. St. Johns River to Lake Harney, Florida.  1908.  The Portal to Texas History.  University of North Texas. Nautical Chart of the St. Johns River.


Florida Museum of Natural History.  Florida Naturalists.  William Bartram.  Book of Travels. May 2013


Salt Springs Recreation Area website:


Salt Springs Run Marina and Landing website:


Coordinates A: 29° 19.432'N 81° 40.839'W

Johnson’s Spring/Six Mile Springs Run/Salt Springs Run

The coordinates given for this site are at the mouth of Salt Springs Run on the west shore of Lake George. (See Images Tab - Figure 1)

Click the Image for a larger Image.

  • Site 28 Salt Springs Run
  • Site 28 Salt Springs Run
  • Site 28 Salt Springs Run
  • Site 28 Salt Springs Run