Right in the heart of North Florida lies a pre-historic spring known as the Devils Den, that houses pre historic artifacts from as early as the Ice age (~ 2.6 million years ago). Although the underwater chambers are not accessible to regular tourists, one can still enjoy the freshness of a swim in the calm, crystal-clear waters of this underground spring. The Devil’s Den spring contains ancient rock formations with stalactites, fossil beds dating back 33 million years and maintains a water temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius) round the year.
On a cold winter morning one can see steam rising through the opening at the top of the spring(chimney) which led to its naming by the early settlers drawing similarity of the smoke emitted from ‘Devil’s Kitchen’.
With a surface diameter of around 120 ft and highest depth of around 100 feet, the Devils Den is a popular spot for diving and snorkelling round the year. On a weekend it is crowded as large teams of professional divers come down from far off places to hone their skills along with the regular family crowd. One can also get a diving certification from here by completing a fixed number of hours under a certified trainer.
Those not used to or comfortable with diving can snorkel around the place to get a look at the submerged limestone formations that give the spring its unique color as sunlight coming through the chimney lights up the place.
If you are planning for a trip to the Devils Den, here are a few things you should know.
But before that a few pictures to give you an idea of the place.
A lady getting down to the main deck
Divers on their way out of the Spring Cave
People enjoying the pristine waters of the spring
Visitors enjoy the view of the spring below from the observation deck above the chimney
OK, here we are, the Important things you should know :
- Nothing except your snorkeling/diving gear is allowed within the spring cave. No bags, handbags, dry bags etc. Towels are allowed as I saw some visitors carrying one.
- You do not need to have your own snorkeling/diving equipment (mask, snorkel, fins, gas cylinder etc). You can get one on rent for a decent price. Fins are an absolute must and trust me when I say that, as without it even the most expert swimmer is likely to risk getting drowned. Also, watch out for divers coming up. Although divers use a dedicated portion of the cave, it is a good idea to keep watch of your surroundings.
- If you plan to photograph or take videos inside the spring, your best bet is an action camera like a go-pro. As far as time of the day is concerned – Reach Early and Stay for a few hours at least. The light and dynamics changes as the day passes and angle of light through the chimney varies. Its pretty dark in there and with the chimney open to sunlight, the dynamic range is huge for the camera to cover. So often you may see the exposure getting messed up, but that’s OK.
- I did not have a go pro or good action cam(my one is not good in low light), so I used my cell phone wrapped in a water proof housing and hung around the neck so that it would not sink to the bottom of the spring (that’s a 100 feet deep and dark world down there). I carried my DSLR in a Dica-pac waterproof housing as I was not aware of this no goods allowed policy, but the guard would not let me take it with me. For those who want to get a glimpse of the spring from above you can do so through the chimney, standing on the observation deck that’s built right above it.
- You need to arrive there as early as possible as the place really gets crowded as the day passes and there can be only a limited number of people in the spring at any time. Arrive late and you might not get a chance to go in.
- Although the water temperature is soothing, at 22 degrees on a typical summer day it might feel a bit cold, but that goes away once you have taken a few dips in the pristine waters.
- There are shower areas and changing rooms on the campus once you get out of the spring. No foot wear allowed inside the spring cave. So better leave it in your car or in you can deposit them at the ticket counter as well.
- Finally, the main deck of the spring is around 50 feet below the ground and the stairs are narrow and slippery. So, mind your step and get down carefully.
- And for Non-Swimmers, you too can enjoy the place. Although due to obvious safety concerns they would not allow you if you mention you are a non-swimmer, just get down there with your snorkeling gear and sit on the deck to enjoy the sunshine on your shoulders. That should really make you happy. I bet it will. Please do not attempt to get in the water at all. There are no places to stand or shallow places to rest. No flotation devices like tubes are also allowed inside. You sign a liability waiver before going in, so no one can be held responsible for any disaster your actions might cause.
Finally think, plan, decide and act accordingly. You can always take your swimming lessons and come back next year.
Details of the activities and timings can be found at the spring website.
Its always a good idea to call the office before you start as previously mentioned, depending on the rush you may not at all get a chance to get your well-deserved swim.
A few more pictures …
way to the observation Deck
Snorkelers on the main deck
A snorkeler in a blue wet suite
Snorkelers exploring the cave
Divers coming up to the surface after a session
View through the chimney from the observation deck
gearing up for a great snorkeling session.
Happy Reading !!!
Happy Exploring !!!