The sun was shining brightly off the crystal water as my best friend and I paddled our small canoe down the Santa Fe River. The sites were familiar to me (I am somewhat considered a “river rat”) Birds were flying overhead, turtles resting on fallen logs, the occasional lazy gator laying on the bank in the shade of an old cypress tree, and very frequently mullet jumping so high I thought they would land right in our canoe. Of all the exquisite wildlife I witnessed that gorgeous sunny day, one site that I seen I will always remember as truly beautiful: the life of Naked Ed at Lily Springs.

As my friend and I turned a bend in the river, we saw a sign which simply read “Lily Springs: Enter at Own Risk.” We contemplated ignoring the small canal that would take us to the exceptional and stunning spring, but being the explorers we are, we decided to give the spring a go. As we approached the spring, the first object I noticed was the straw hut on stilts. Next, I noticed a man sitting on a small dock built off of the hut. As we paddled ashore, I instantly felt comfortable because of the shouts of welcome I heard from Naked Ed. I learned many facts that day about Lily Springs and whom I officially came to know as Naked Ed.

Lily Springs is located approximately 3/4 mile downstream from Poe Springs and 1/2 mile upstream of Rum Island Springs on the Gilchrist (south) side of the river. Lily is a single inlet made up of 5-7 springs, depending on the way they are counted. The spring can only be accessed recreationally by canoe from the Santa Fe River. Lily is a unique spring, in that the land around the pool is privately owned. The owner of the spring is known as “Naked Ed,” or as simply just Ed. Since 1984, he has served as caretaker of the spring. ( I find the fact that Ed has lived in the hut for almost ten years really amazing and interesting.

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Ed not only owns the spring, but he took up residence there as well. Ed lives in the hut that he built which sits on stilts about 6 feet or so above the ground, facing toward the spring. The sides and roof are thatched with palm fronds. In front is a porch from which Ed can survey his spring and the canoeists who paddle in. Ed says that the spring area was trashed when he moved in, but he has transformed it into something out of Swiss Family Robinson because of the way that the hut is built out of natural material and that it is very secluded. Ed lives in the hut year round, covered only in a loincloth and heavy beard, hence the name “Naked Ed.”

Although at first I was cautious and maybe somewhat scared of Ed because of his barbaric look, his response to me was kind and inviting. Signs tacked onto trees in the run, including “Man is the most dangerous animal,” and “Unattended children will be fed to alligators,” suggest that he is a humorous and friendly man. During our visit with Ed he described that although he does not depend on running water, the river provides him with all the bathing water he needs. Ed also told us that he leads a very happy life by the river. Ed’s life is a life I would consider to be simple because he avoids much of the monthly experiences that I consider stressful, such as paying an electricity bill, in that he has no electricity.

Of all the beautiful places I’ve seen in my lifetime, I do believe Lily Springs is amongst the most striking. However peculiar Naked Ed may appear to many, I feel somewhat envious of his simple life in paradise. Although he may be a hermit, Ed has probably spoken to more people than most in the time span of one day. Ed lives without the privileges we take for granted, such as electricity and running water. Ed’s life is simple yet happy, and I believe those are two factors that help determine true beauty.


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