As anyone who knows Florida can tell you, there is simply no end to the fun and fantastic experiences that can be had here. The Sunshine State is a cornucopia of stunning natural attractions, vibrant wildlife, and friendly communities bursting with things to see, do, and experience.
Even amidst all this variety, however, Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring stands out as a unique and unusual opportunity.
A Prehistoric Swimming Hole
Devil’s Den Spring is a karst window, or sinkhole, leading to a natural stone chamber filled with water from a subterranean river. Part of the cave’s ceiling collapsed millions of years ago, exposing the pool below.
Fossils found in a chamber beneath the water’s surface helped to date the sinkhole to about 7,500 BC. These included bones from long-extinct Pleistocene species like mastodons, saber-toothed cats, ground sloths, camels, and even humans. The fossils found here are now on display at the Florida Museum of Natural History, in Gainesville.
The cave is around 54 feet (16.5 m) deep and shaped like an upside down mushroom, with four underwater passages. The previously mentioned fossils were discovered in one of these underwater passages in the 1960’s.
The sinkhole that exposed the cave now serves as a skylight for the pool below. A mass of ferns crowd the sinkhole’s opening, their trailing green tendrils dangling down into the cave below.
The water in the spring stays a refreshing 72°F (22°C) all year long. In fact, that’s how the spring got its name. The relatively warm waters produce a steam in colder weather, which rises eerily up out of the sinkhole. Early settlers seeing this phenomenon were reminded of tales of sulfurous Hades and named the spring accordingly.
Devil’s Den opened to the public as a dive site in the early 1990’s. A small, secondary sinkhole modified into a passageway with stairs provides access to the spring cave.
Visiting Devil’s Den
Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring, located in Williston, FL, is open to scuba divers and snorkelers only. Swimmers, casual visitors, and children under 6 years of age are not allowed in the spring cavern.
A snorkeling mask, snorkel, and fins are required. There are on-site rentals, however, so don’t worry if you didn’t bring any.
Snorklers will enjoy exploring the ancient spring waters up to a depth of eight feet and may encounter small fish and turtles. Though the sinkhole lets in some light, the park will provide you with an underwater flashlight so you can really explore.
Those with open-water scuba diving certifications and a diving buddy can enjoy deeper, scuba explorations of the Devil’s Den. Sharp-eyed divers may even find themselves face to face with prehistoric fossil or two (please don’t touch). For an even more amazing experience, consider scheduling a night dive!
Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring
Diving at Devil’s Den is available on a first come/first served basis and scuba divers are given priority. Consequently, it’s best to arrive earlier in order to secure a good spot on the day’s waiting list.
Snorklers and divers must complete an insurance liability waiver upon entering the property, and you must be 18 to sign for yourself. If you are under 18, a parent must be with you to sign.
Devil’s Den is about an hour’s drive from our North Central Florida inn, Hampton Lake Bed & Breakfast. It is fascinating place but you’re likely to only spend a few hours there, at most.
Make a day trip out of your visit by exploring some of the other attractions in the area. Neighboring Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens, for example, is a lime rock quarry transformed into a beautiful botanical garden. The cascading waterfalls, koi ponds, and 50+ gardens are adjacent to a 54-acre wildlife reservation and will take your breath away.
If you’re looking for more subterranean-adventures, nearby Blue Grotto, also offers year-round diving in depths up to 100 feet for certified divers.
Spend the day exploring, then make your way back to the comfort of your room at our Gainesville area inn, Hampton Lake Bed & Breakfast. See you soon!