Currently accessible only by boat, Shangri-La Spring flows from a vent or crack in the limestone about 800 feet down the mill pond from Blue Springs. The maximum depth is 10.5 feet and the water flows up from the ground at a year-round temperature of 68.97 degrees.
The spring is much smaller than its upstream neighbor (Jackson Blue Springs is the only First Magnitude Spring in the Chipola River basin), but it makes up for its size with spectacular natural beauty.
|A scout enjoys the view of Shangri-La during a guided tour.|
Shangri-La is embedded in the history of Jackson County. The first Spanish explorers to enter the area passed by in 1674 while following the real Old Spanish Trail. Often confused with U.S. 90 or the current county road of that name, the original Old Spanish Trail angled northwest from present-day Sneads to Blue Springs via what is now Providence Church and Reddoch Roads.
|Shangri-La in Jackson County, Florida|
...[A]round it are numerous huge rocks and habitable caves frequented by the Indians on their hunting trips for bear, deer and buffalo, of which there is an abundance. The soil for three or four leagues round is rich and suitable for all kinds of cultivation. There are very excellent wild grapes on the many vines, and many luscious chestnuts. Here we spent the night, thanking God for such a pleasant and delightful spot uninhabited save for the wild animals who enjoy it. - Fray Rodrigo de la Barreda, 1693.
|Spectacular view of Shangri-La and Merritt's Mill Pond|
Soldiers under Major General Andrew Jackson explored the caves and rocks around Shangri-La when the U.S. Army camped at Blue Springs on the night of March 10, 1818. The First Seminole War was then underway and Jackson had invaded Spanish Florida on the orders of President James Monroe. He was on his way to attack Pensacola.
|Crystal clear water of Shangri-La Spring|
Pyles' claim soon passed to Major William Robinson, who built a comfortable home on the hill overlooking Blue Springs. Robinson's plantation covered 3,100 acres encompassing both Blue and Shangri-La Springs. Some idea of the appearance of the area at the time was left by Rt. Rev. Michael Portier, the Catholic Bishop of Florida, who visited the major at his home in 1827:
|"Rocks...as high as the trees themselves"|
Robinson lived at Blue Springs (then called Robinson's Big Spring) and Shangri-La until his death. His lands eventually passed to his relative, Governor John Milton.
|View down into the cave at Shangri-La Spring|
Confederate soldiers also enjoyed the crystal clear water and scenery while stationed at Camp Governor Milton, which incorporated Major Robinson's old home at Blue Springs. Some of these men carved their names into the rocks of Shangri-La Bluff and they rode past the spring on their way to the Battle of Marianna in 1864.
Shangri-La Spring today is owned by the state and protected by Jackson County Parks & Recycling. Future work will open the grounds to the public, but for now the scenic spot can be accessed by boat via the mill pond or by canoe or kayak when Blue Springs is open to the public during the summer season.