What’s the Largest Pond in Florida?

Written by Mike Edmisten
Updated: April 22, 2023
© U.S. Army image by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License / Original
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While it depends on how a person defines a “pond,” many believe Merritt’s Mill Pond to be the largest pond in Florida. This unique body of water is a true gem of the Florida Panhandle.

Located less than 40 miles south/southeast of Dothan, Alabama, Merritt’s Mill Pond is a 202-acre spring-fend pond in the Florida city of Marianna. The water runs 10-12 feet deep, which is why most consider it a pond rather than a lake. There is no standardized way to set apart ponds and lakes, but it’s generally accepted that a lake has a maximum depth no shallower than 20 feet. That would make Merritt’s Mill Pond a pond, just as the name suggests.

Flag of Florida waving in the wind
Florida’s Merritt’s Mill Pond is a treasure found in the Panhandle.

©iStock.com/Дмитрий Ларичев


Merritt’s Mill Pond has been at its current size and depth since the mid-1860s. A series of dams had been constructed for grist mills (hence the pond’s name) and other purposes. The present site of the dam was chosen in 1866.

The Pond’s Features

Being spring-fed, the water of Merritt’s Mill Pond is amazingly clear. Photographers are drawn to the pond to capture its beautiful water against the cypress forest draped in Spanish moss. Paddlers also flock to the pond with canoes and kayaks to paddle through the trees and enjoy the pristine water.

The pond’s ecosystem features abundant wildlife like alligators, snakes, and turtles. Birds such as herons, kingfishers, hawks, swallows, and cormorants are also common sightings.

Scuba and cave diving are very popular in the pond. Merritt’s Mill Pond is fed mostly by one spring, known as Blue Spring or Jackson Blue. The main vent for the spring is a limestone cave close to 5,000 feet in length. It is a first-magnitude spring, discharging an average of about 76 million gallons a day. We remind you that a spring is classified as first magnitude if it discharges at least 64 million gallons of water per day. Cave divers from all over the world come to dive into the pond’s crystal clear waters and explore the cave.

Along with the main spring and cave, other caves can be seen around the pond, including Shangri-la, Twin Caves, Hole-in-the-Wall, Indian Wash Tub, Gator Hole, and Hidey Hole caves.

Cormorant with a fish in its beak
Cormorants are often seen fishing in Merritt’s Mill Pond.


A Record-Producing Fishery

But, as remarkable as all of this is, Merritt’s Mill Pond draws more people because of its quality fish population than for any other reason. The fishery of the pond is relatively healthy, with anglers commonly landing high-quality largemouth bass, bluegill, and carp.

The pond’s claim to fame, though, is its trophy-sized redear sunfish (sometimes known as shellcrackers, due to their primary diet of snails). This pond in the Florida Panhandle produced a previous world record redear sunfish, and it still holds the Florida state record redear, which weighed 4.86 pounds. To preserve this trophy redear fishery, there is a daily bag limit of 10 readear sunfish. Redears less than 10 inches must be released immediately.

Redear Sunfish
Redear sunfish are plentiful, not to mention record-setting, in Merritt’s Mill Pond.


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About the Author

A freelance writer in Cincinnati, OH, Mike is passionate about the natural world. He, his wife, and their two sons love the outdoors, especially camping and exploring US National Parks. A former pastor, he also writes faith-based content to encourage and inspire. And, for reasons inexplicable, Mike allows Cincinnati sports teams to break his heart every year.

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