Devil’s Den Spring
Devil’s Den Spring is of the coolest, most unique springs in Florida, and for good reason.
It’s always been a popular spot, but in recent years it’s become insta-famous on Youtube and Instagram. People are memorized by its deep blue water, fascinating history and beautiful photo ops.
Devil’s Den is a great trip, and I definitely recommend it. But, there are some things that first-time visitors should know before going.
Knowing the spring’s story will make you love the spring more, and a few crucial tips might save you from disappointment and a ruined trip.
You should know that divers and snorkelers give Devil’s Den mixed reviews. Some absolutely love it. Some people are disappointed and underwhelmed. But, almost everyone says they’re happy they went.
My own personal opinion is that this would be an incredible place to learn to SCUBA dive. The controlled, crystal-clear conditions would be perfect for anyone who’s nervous about diving in the ocean for their first time.
Why? It’s much easier for a nervous newbie to slip into cyrstal-clear, calm water than to roll off a rocking boat into a murky, wavy ocean.
Even if you’re already certified, or just want to snorkel, it’s absolutely worth a visit. Afterall, it’s listed in publications like Sport Diver’s “Best Freshwater Scuba Diving Sites” for a reason: it’s amazing.
But, it’s important to keep in mind that Instagram photos almost always misrepresent the true feel of a place. Photography can make a place seem more adventurous and exotic than real life.
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You should prepare yourself that, unless you plan ahead and get lucky, the cavern will probably be crowded, and it probably won’t live up to amazing Instagram expectations or fantasies.
All that said, it is a truly incredible, beautiful place. You should go. It is literally as close as you can get to an exotic Mexican cenote adventure without needing a passport.
And, if you already know a bit of the incredible story behind it first, Devil’s Den will be a truly unforgettable experience!
What is Devil’s Den?
Devil’s Den is natural karst spring. There are hundreds of beautiful natural springs in Florida, but Devil’s Den is unique because it’s set inside a large pre-historic cave. It’s operated as a privately-owned SCUBA and snorkeling facility in Williston, Florida.
The Devil’s Den Cave is a totally unique SCUBA diving experience. Or, at least it’s unique in the United States. The same amazing karst phenomenon occurs in many beautiful places around the world, like the famous cenotes of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
How big is Devil’s Den?
The spring in Devil’s Den has a surface diameter of 120 ft. It’s often described as an upside-down mushroom.
How deep is Devil’s Den?
At its deepest depth, Devil’s Den is 54 feet deep. There are not any shallow spots in the cave, except for a fixed platform at the bottom of the stairs. Under the platform, the water is about 20 feet deep. The exact depth changes with local water table conditions.
The cavern inside Devil’s Den grew over millions of years, as acidic rain water dissolved limestone rock. Devil’s Den is known as a “Karst Window” because it provides direct access for water to enter to the ground-water system.
Pay attention as you climb down into the cavern, and look at the rock walls. You can actually see tiny air pockets where limestone has been dissolved away by water. That same process created the entire cavern and cave system!
Things you need to know
The Address for Devil’s Den is:
Phone Contact: 352-528-3344
Email Contact: [email protected]
Devil’s Den Hours:
- Monday through Thursday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The last water entry allowed is 1 hour before closing time.
The main gate closes at 6 p.m.
Devil’s Den is open year-round, 364 days a year. It’s only closed on Christmas Day.
The busiest season is from January to May.
Dogs are not allowed, except for service animals.
Most things in Devil’s Den are first-come, first-served, including:
- Scuba diving
- Tent sites
The only things you can reserve in advance are cabins and RV camping spaces.
Get there early!
Because it’s first come, first-served, it’s good to arrive as early as possible. Get there before opening, if you can.
If you arrive late on a busy day, you might have to wait for hours until you’re allowed to enter the spring. And then, it would be crowded and chaotic. If you want to see the spring and cave in their silent, beautiful state, make sure to plan ahead, go on a non-busy day, and get there early!
Are children allowed in Devil’s Den?
Minors under age 18 must be with a parent, or have a notarized permission slip!
“Anyone under the age of 18 must have a parent on site. If a parent is not present, court documentation must be presented in order to allow a guardian to sign a waiver on behalf of the minor or the person taking responsibility for the minor must have the parent write out a permission slip giving said person permission to have their child on site and this note must be notarized.”
There are specific rules for children at Devil’s Den. Kids are only allowed inside Devil’s Den if they’re age 6 or older. They MUST be extremely good swimmers! Devil’s Den is over 50 feet deep, and there are no shallow spots except for the dive platform, which is in 20 ft. deep water. Floats are not allowed!
You should not go inside Devil’s Den if you are not a strong swimmer! Water inside the cave is over 50 feet deep. The water is cold, and will zap your energy quickly. There are no shallow spots, and floats are not allowed!
Are there alligators?
There are not any sharks or alligators in Devil’s Den. Although the spring is connected to the Florida aquifer and other springs via an underground cave system, there is no way for alligators to enter the spring via the tunnels. And, the spring is fresh water, so you don’t have to worry about sharks. The shark question seems a bit out there, but it’s a FAQ on the spring’s official website, so I guess it gets asked!
The only wildlife inside Devil’s Den are fish and turtles.
Can you swim in Devil’s Den?
The answer is a bit complicated.
You can snorkel and scuba dive, but you are not allowed to just “swim” in Devil’s Den. This sounds like a silly rule, but it’s because of insurance regulations.
To enter the cave, you’ll need to snorkel or SCUBA dive, and have the required minimum equipment. You can bring your own, or rent them on-site from Devil’s Den.
What exactly do you need to go snorkeling in Devil’s Den?
At minimum, you must have:
The cost to rent mask, snorkel and fins is $10 for all three. Or, if you only need one or two, they are $4 each.
If you don’t have this snorkel gear, you won’t be allowed inside the cave. All of these things are available for rent inside Devil’s Den, for an additional cost on top of admission.
It’s also a great idea to use a wetsuit, because the water is chilly and quickly sucks away your body heat.
And, be sure to bring anti-fog mask spray! There’s nothing worse than spending all of your snorkel or dive time clearing a foggy mask.
Can you enter Devil’s Den without swimming?
There is a strict rule that only snorkelers and divers are allowed down to Devil’s Den. You’re not even allowed to go to the stairs “just to take a photo”.
Access to the cave is controlled by a color-coded wrist band system.
There’s a paid “walk-though only” option to enter the grounds and view Devil’s Den from above.
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But, without paying for scuba or snorkeling, and having the right gear, you won’t be allowed to go down the stairs or view the spring from the stairs.
Again, if you don’t have the equipment, you won’t be allowed inside the cave, or down the stairs! So many people are disappointed when they show up because they don’t read this detail!
This seems like an overly strict rule, but it makes sense. The insurance liability must be insane for a place like this. And, the stair way down to the water is very slippery, tight and narrow. Nobody would be able to squeeze past a group of people– or even one person– taking photos.
Luckily, you know all of this in advance, and you won’t be disappointed!
Things to Bring
- Sun screen
- Bug spray
- Flash lights
- Cooler, food, picnic, grill
- Camping gear
- Mask spray
- Snorkel gear
- Underwater camera
Water-based activities are dangerous. Make sure you’re extra careful. Watch out for everyone in your group, and others around you. Be on the lookout for reckless or dangerous activity. If you see something, report it to the site managers immediately. Although extremely rare, there are documented cases of people dying and being injured in Devil’s Den. Most water-related deaths and injuries are avoidable, so pay attention and be careful! Be especially careful on wet and slippery surfaces, too.
Devil’s Den Rules
Devil’s Den Spring is a 100% privately owned scuba diving facility.
It’s always been privately owned, and has never been public land. They have a specific set of rules, and they’re strictly enforced.
Do yourself a giant favor, and avoid nasty surprises that might ruin your trip!
Read the rules before you go! If you have any questions, it’s always a great idea to call and ask, or email!
- You’re not allowed to JUST swim. You must SNORKEL, and have snorkel gear, including: mask, fins and snorkel.
- If you rent snorkel gear from Devil’s Den, you’re limited to 2-hours in the spring, and then must return the snorkel gear.
- The number of people is limited during busy times. If it’s busy you might have to wait for your turn.
- Dogs are not allowed, except for service animals.
- Drones are not allowed.
- Floats are not allowed in the spring!
- Children are only allowed if they are 6 or older. Kids must be extremely good swimmers because the water is deep and cold!
Best time to visit Devil’s Den
The best time to visit Devil’s Den will depend on what you want to do, and your preferences.
If you’re looking for a perfect photo shoot opportunity, you’ll probably want to go on a weekday during the winter, and get there as early as possible. That will give you the best chance of getting the perfect, empty and peaceful spring. For every picture-perfect photo of Devil’s Den on Instagram or Youtube, there a hundred crowded, chaotic photos filled with splashing snorkelers.
You should also consider the lighting! At mid-day the sun can shine directly into the cave. This can give a beautiful and dramatic spot-light affect. Unfortunately, mid-day is likely to be the most crowded time of the day.
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If you don’t care about photos, then you might want to think about what you want to get out of the trip.
If you like high-energy crowds and playing lawn games with lots of people around, you might enjoy going on a warm weekend day, when it’s almost guaranteed to be crowded and crazy.
If you get cold easily, you might consider waiting for a warm day. The water stays very chilly, and although the water temperature itself never changes, the air temperature makes a big difference for staying warm.
Cold winter mornings are the only time you can see the famous “steam” (mist) rising from Devil’s Den.
If you will use a wetsuit, you’ll be able to stay in the water for much longer before you get cold. You’ll also be able to enjoy the spring earlier in the day, and maybe beat the crowds.
What’s it like?
The area around Devil’s Den is sparsely populated farmland.
- 3 miles outside of Williston
- 24 miles from Gainesville
- 28 miles from Ocala
The property surrounding Devil’s Den is beautiful, and feels like a well-manicured, slightly wild park. It sits far off the main road, down a gravel driveway.
There are beautiful old trees draped with Spanish moss, and nice grassy areas.
There are cabins available for rent, and camping for both tents and RV’s.
Besides the cavern and spring, the owners built a large, multi-acre scuba training lake/pond. There are even deep sections with sunken boats inside, to make exploring more interesting. Unfortunately, it turned green from uncontrolled algae, and visibility is not good. It’s mostly used for advanced scuba training like search and rescue.
Food options at Devil’s Den
Gainesville is only 23 miles away from Williston and Devil’s Den. It’s home to the University of Florida, so it has lots of great lodging and dining options.
On weekends there is sometimes a food truck at Devil’s Den. Otherwise, you’ll either need to bring your own food, or go into either Williston, Gainesville or Ocala for food.
There are charcoal grills available for use on the property grounds. They cannot be reserved, and are first-come, first-served.
There are small kitchens inside the cabins, so you might be able to save money on food if you bring groceries and cook your own meals.
To enter Devil’s Den you’ll need to walk down a narrow, underground hallway of stairs. There will be limestone rock on either side of you. Then, you’ll reach a floor, and another set of stairs descending to a platform at the water surface.
The water level changes depending on local water conditions, so the platform might be dry or under water. The water under the platform is about 20 feet deep, but it’s always changing.
The only animals that live inside the spring are fish and turtles. Apparently one fish named Lucky, got lost in the cave network and was missing for more than a year, before he found his way back. His usual color was orange, but he turned white from the ordeal.
How much does Devil’s Den cost?
Florida springs are usually cheap and affordable family adventures, but Devil’s Den is NOT a super cheap place to visit. Especially for a family, the costs and overall price could add up quickly.
Cost of Snorkeling Devil’s Den
$15/person: Monday – Friday
$20/person: Saturday, Sunday, & Holidays
$10: Full snorkel gear rental (Mast, Fin, Snorkel)
$4: Individual snorkel equipment rental
- *Admission fee does not include mask, snorkel, and fins which are required!
- 2 hour maximum for rented snorkel gear
Diving Admission Cost
Cost of SCUBA diving Devil’s Den
$40.00: Full Gear Rental, including: Mask, Snorkel, Fins, Booties, Regulator, BCD, Tank, Wetsuit, Weights, LED Light. Gear can be rented individually, and they do tank fills. Check their website for more prices.
Devil’s Den does not have NITROX tank fill capability, but the dive shop inside Blue Grotto does, and it’s only a few miles away.
Things you can do to make Devil’s Den less expensive:
- Bring breakfast and lunch
- Bring your own snorkel equipment
- Camp to save on accommodation costs!
Diving in Devil’s Den
You can fill your tanks with Nitrox at another nearby dive site, Blue Grotto, which is only 2 miles away.
One interesting thing about Devil’s Den is that it does not offer, or endorse, any specific dive shop, instructor or operator. All dive instructors who operate out of Devil’s Den are independent providers.
Devil’s Den isn’t technically considered a cave dive. The difference is that, unlike a cave, there’s always open, direct access to the surface. Because there’s no overhead obstruction, the dive is less dangerous, and doesn’t require cave-dive training.
There’s an extensive cave system connected to Devil’s Den, which is where the spring water comes from. But, there are obstructions blocking the entrances, and entrance is strictly forbidden. Some people have died in the past after tearing down the cave obstacle and going inside.
Cave diving reports describe the caves inside Devil’s Den to be tight, low-flow and high in sediment, which make for exceptionally dangerous cave diving conditions. There have been at least two documented deaths in Devil’s Den:
On Sunday, October 7, a group of three divers entered Devil’s Den in Levy County, Florida. They were KK, CM and CP. CP was apparently rescue certified for open water but bad no cave or cavern training. He had dived at the site two weeks prior.
At around noon, the three did a dive. Only CP had brought a second set of tanks and went down a second time at about 2: 15 p. m. He proceeded through the cavern area and about 200 feet into the cave area, at about 70 feet depth, he apparently stirred up some silt and ended up in a low, bedding plane passage about 2 feet high, where he ran out of air and drowned. The body recovery crew found “clawing” marks in the silt.
I) Kelly Brady, “Recovery Report”, October 8. 1990, unpublished. 2 pages.
2) Karen Voyles, “Man Drowns in Cave After Ignoring Diving Conditions”, The Gainsville Sun,. October 9, 1990.
3) Ed., “Deaths in Mexico and Florida”, Underwater Speleology, 17 (5), September/October 1990, p. 4
Another incident in 1995 led to the tragic death of a scuba diver. The diver and his buddy were both firefighters, and died after allegedly pulling the gate down to access the underground cave network.
This excerpt has been edited to remove names.
Diver Drowns in Williston Spring
Friday, July 14, 1995
WILLISTON – A Mobile Ala., firefighter drowned while diving in Levy County on Thursday afternoon with another Mobile firefighter.
The drowning victim … was pronounced dead after his body was recovered from Devil’s Den at 8:30 pm Thursday. Devil’s Den is a privately owned spring outside Williston on Levy County Road 505, a mile north of Alt. U.S. 27.
The <dive buddy> told investigators that he noticed <the victim> was missing at about 3:30 pm. <The dive buddy> went back to the surface to pick up a fresh tank of air, but was unable to find <the victim> when he returned to the opening of the cavern where the two had been diving, according to sheriff’s spokesman…
Cave divers from the National Speleological Society… found <the victim> in about 35 feet of water Thursday evening.
A preliminary investigation showed that both <divers> were certified as open-water divers, but it did not appear that either diver was certified for cave diving.
Additional Information: Apparently the divers decided to pull down the fence which blocks off the cave section at Devil’s Den. They did not have the proper training or equipment to cave dive. On top of that, the cave system at Devil’s Den is supposed to be very low flow and high silt, as well as a tight squeeze. The type of system that trained cave divers would probably say, “There’s no way you’re getting me into that hole”. Original Source
Is Devil’s Den a good SCUBA diving experience?
Disclaimer: I haven’t dove at Devil’s Den. But, I’m an Advanced diver and freediver, and have dove in amazing locations all around the world. So, I’ll offer my opinion through that lens.
I think that if you have the chance to dive Devil’s Den, and you’re OK with the cost, you should do it.
But, you should be aware that the novelty might wear off quickly. To me, Devil’s Den itself is incredibly cool. And, I’d love to freedive it, if it were allowed.
But, diving in Devil’s Den would probably feel like a natural swimming pool to me. I wouldn’t build Devil’s Den up in my mind to be an incredible, bucket-list type diving destination.
But, that’s just my opinion! Many people love it, and it might be way more exciting than I imagine it would be. Especially if it’s one of your first diving experiences, or if you just find it really cool, it might be amazing!
Getting SCUBA certified at Devil’s Den
I think that Devil’s Den would be a fantastic place to become certified and learn to SCUBA dive.
“No wind, no waves, and visibility forever”
-Jacques Cousteau, describing a Florida’s spring
Several factors make Devil’s Den an ideal learning spot:
- Easy water access
- No wind or wave action
- Great facilities
- No boat fees, waves or seasickness
- No fear of sharks, alligators, etc.
Downsides to getting SCUBA certified at Devil’s Den
The only downsides I can think of for getting SCUBA certified at Devil’s Den are the flip-sides of its benefits.
If you get certified at Devil’s Den, you wouldn’t get exposure to a traditional boat dive environment. That means your next dive experience— which might be off of a boat—would have new elements and variables introduced, which you won’t have practiced, like the giant stride entry.
But, that’s not necessarily a huge problem. And, it might even be better for you to learn and practice routines and safety protocols in the most controlled environment; you might retain the information better.
The same logic goes for diving in the ocean. If you felt comfortable in the welcoming, clear water of the cavern, you might not feel prepared for the anxiety of a murky boat dive with strong currents, or thoughts about sharks, etc.
I think that the nearby Blue Grotto would also be a fantastic place to learn and become certified.
Where is Devil’s Den Spring?
Devil’s Den Spring is located in Williston, Florida, a small town in North Central Florida.
The Devil Den’s address is:
Email: [email protected]
The area around Devil’s Den and Central Florida are world famous for fresh-water spring diving. There are many world-class diving locations within an hour’s drive from Devil’s Den.
How to get to Devil’s Den
For Florida-based readers, this might seem like a silly question. How do you get there? You drive!
But, lots of people visit Devil’s Den from all over the country, and the world. There’s even a wall map at Devil’s Den showing the home countries of its visitors. There are pins from all over the world!
North central Florida is truly a cave-diving capital of the world, and people come from all over to enjoy the pristine springs and diving conditions.
So, if you’re a visitor reading this from outside Florida, welcome!
If you need to get to Williston and don’t have access to a car, there’s good news and bad news.
The bad news is that there is absolutely no public transportation which will bring you directly to Devil’s Den. There is not a bus, train or any sort of public option.
The good news is that if you have a driver’s license, car rentals are very affordable.
There is also a service called Turo, which is like AirBnB for cars. I’ve used it several times in different places, and have had a great experience every time. It has saved me a crazy amount of money in places like Hawaii, and was often more convenient than traditional rental car options.
If you need to get to Gainesville, there is more good news: There is direct bus service to and from Gainesville from major cities, like Orlando and Jacksonville. I know for a fact that Mega Bus operates on this route, and others may, as well.
If you’re traveling to Gainesville from southern Florida, like Tampa or Miami, you’d need to connect through Orlando. I checked the Megabus website and it’s not clear whether you could book this in one itinerary, or if you’d need to book it separately.
Can you take an Uber to Devil’s Den?
Gainesville is a relatively large university town, and there appears to be Uber service there. I requested a price quote, and was given this price to take an Uber from Gainesville to Devil’s Den.
I’m not sure if this would actually work or not. You’d need to find an Uber driver willing to make the long trip, which might be difficult. And, it might be impossible to find an Uber back to Gainesville.
Possible Alternative Option: Hitchiking
Disclaimer: I don’t recommend this.
From my own travels, I know that hitchhiking is common and accepted travel method around the world, especially Europe. If you’re adventurous and comfortable with the risks, you could try hitch-hiking. But, it’s not common in the U.S. It’s even illegal in some parts of the country, especially large cities. I think you’d have a very hard time getting a ride. And, because it is so uncommon, you might find that the only people who do offer rides tend to be …unusual. Again, I don’t recommend it, at all. But, if you’re adventurous and comfortable with the risks, it might be possible.
Lodging, Hotels and Camping near Devil’s Den
Camping, or staying in a cabin at Devil’s Den might be an excellent option. Especially if photography is important to you, being at the facility before opening time might give you the best chance of getting a great shot.
It might also be a good place to use as a home-base for exploring other springs in the area. I have not camped at Devil’s Den, but I researched camping reviews and campers seem to like it. Most say that the camping area is not crowded, grassy and very peaceful. Apparently there are reduced rates for weekly and monthly rates.
Devil’s Den has quite a few on-site lodging options, including:
- Tent Camping
- RV Camping
- Nearby hotels
- Nearby camping
- Nearby AirBnB
I found great-looking AirBnB options nearby, which are conveniently spaced between Devil’s Den and Blue Grotto.
Things to do near Devil’s Den
You should know something about Devil’s Den: It’s beautiful, but you might not want to spend all day there.
After an hour of snorkeling and some great photos, you might get cold and be ready for something else.
Besides diving, snorkeling grilling and yard games, there aren’t a ton of other things to do at Devil’s Den. It might be a good idea to plan for this, and have some ideas of other things to do to fill out your day.
Besides Devil’s Den, there are many other things to do in this part of Florida, and around Williston. Actually, are so many adventures that you should think ahead about what you want to see, and how you want to budget your time.
All have one thing in common— they center around the beautiful natural environment, and amazing water adventures.
- Cedar Lakes Botanical Garden
- Two hawks hammock zip line
- Blue Grotto is 2 miles away
- Rainbow Springs
- Ichetucknee Springs
- Ginnie Springs
- Silver Springs
- Manatee Springs
- Cedar Key
Devil’s Den Weather
The weather in Williston, Florida varies dramatically with the season.
Summers are hot and humid, with high temperatures in the low to mid 90’s.
Winters are mild, with cool mornings and an occasional freeze. Winter morning lows are often in the 40’s. Winter daytime temperatures are usually in the 70’s and low to mid 80’s.
The busy season for Devil’s Den is from January to May, as snowbirds come to Florida for warm winter weather. Snowbird tourists tend to head back north before June, when summer heat and humidity become oppressive.
Why is it called “Devil’s Den”?
- People call Devil’s Den by many names. It’s also known as:
- Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring
- Devil’s Den Cavern
- Devil’s Den Cave
- Devil’s Den Spring
- Devil’s Cavern
- Devil’s Spring
- Devil’s Cave
- Devil’s… you get the idea.
Devil’s Den (allegedly) got its name from early settlers, who stumbled upon the spring on a cold winter day in the early 1800’s. They noticed steam— or what they thought was steam— rising from a hole in the ground.
They must have wondered, is this the top of a boiling, steaming hell-hole? Maybe there are volcanic, geothermal hot springs in Florida?
Not exactly. The “steam” they saw wasn’t even steam! It was actually just normal mist, caused by a difference in the 72 degree spring water temperature and cold surrounding air. It’s really nothing special— just the same effect that makes your breath visible on a cold winter day.
But, it’s easy to imagine why the Devil’s Den might have seemed so mysterious. At that time— around the early 1800’s— the early settlers saw a very different site than what exists today.
First, the area around the spring would have been very lush, and covered in forest. It probably would have seemed much more exotic and eery than today, when everything is cleared and manicured.
Second, the hole at the top of the spring was much smaller. The large ceiling hole you see today was enlarged in the early 1990’s, when the dive site was built. The old, small hole was described as “tight” for a human body to fit through. It would have taken a brave person to explore the Devil’s Den under those circumstances! Can you imagine plunging down through a tight hole, into a pitch-dark, unknown watery cave?
Another difference at that time is that the water level was much higher than it is today; it rose almost to the outside ground surface.
The water level in Devil’s Den rises and falls along with the water table and the Florida Aquifer. Those levels all change, based on rain fall amounts and how much water is pumped from the aquifer. Due to over pumping and bad water management, springs all over Florida suffer from lowered levels. If they’re not taken care of, springs easily reverse their flow and run dry.
Is Devil’s Den a hot spring?
Some folks wonder if Devil’s Den is a natural hot spring. I’m not sure where they get the idea— maybe it’s something about the name Devil’s Den? Maybe they think it means the spring is sulphuric? Or, maybe they’ve seen famous photos of steam rising from the cavern vent?
Although there are a few incredible natural hot springs in Florida— or, at least warm springs— Devil’s Den isn’t one of them.
Why does steam rise from Devil’s Den?
Actually, the “steam” rising from Devil’s Den isn’t steam! The water isn’t boiling, so it’s actually a mist.
In the winter, Williston, Florida can get cold, especially on winter mornings. The spring water stays 72 degrees year-round, so the spring water is warmer than the cold air. Just like a hot tub, or a hot spring, the warm water evaporates and produces mist, often mistaken for “steam”.
Mist is a mix of air and tiny water droplets. Those tiny drops of water rise from the warm water as it evaporates, and turns from liquid to gas.
The mist effect depends on the temperature difference between water and the surrounding air. When the difference is larger, more mist is produced.
Like most of Florida springs the water inside Devil’s Den is always 72 degrees, year-round. That’s because the spring water spends most of its life under ground. Underground soil is a great insulator, so it isn’t affected by hot or cold weather conditions.
The 72 degree water is refreshing on hot summer days, and it’s usually warm enough for winter snorkeling and diving. But, if you’ll spend a lot of time in the water, especially in winter, you should seriously consider using a 3mm wetsuit.
I can tell you from deep experience that swimming in 72 degree spring water makes you cold and tired quickly. Shivering in cold water sucks the energy out of your muscles, and makes swimming harder.
Pay attention to your body, and be careful not to get too cold. Watch out for people with low body fat content, children and the elderly; their bodies lose heat faster.
If you feel cold, or are worried about someone in your group, get out of the water immediately! Get dry and take a break to warm up. You should also have a plan for getting warm when you get out of the water!
The story behind Devil’s Den
Like many other Florida springs, Devil’s Den’s story stretches back in time for millions of years.
Inside Devil’s Den, archeologists have found fossils and other artifacts from the Pleistocene era, which lasted from approximately 2.5 million years ago until about 12,000 years ago.
Scientists even found several human skeletons, evidence of Florida’s earliest humans. This is incredibly exciting because it helps tell the story of how early humans first populated North America.
Long ago, in the Pleistocene era, Florida, was very different than it is today. During that time, the Earth was experiencing an ice-age. The climate was dramatically different than today. Earth’s oceans were frozen into massive sheets of ice, so sea levels were much lower. Florida’s climate was much drier and cooler, and fresh water sources were not easy to find. Source
Pre-historic animals came to springs like Devil’s Den because they were good sources of drinking water, and humans came to hunt the animals. It was sort of like an African watering hole you might see in National Geographic.
Devil’s Den Historical Timeline
- 33 million years ago: Sea levels were high, Florida was flooded under warm, shallow seas. Coral reefs filled the entire area.
- 12,000 years ago: During the last ice age, sea levels dropped. The oceans pulled back, and coral reefs were left on dry land. Reef and the skeletons of marine life were compressed into a layer of limestone.Over time, plants grew, and animals lived on the dry land. Plants and animals died, leaving organic soil. When rain falls, it mixes with the organic soil. The water becomes slightly acidic, and eats away at soft limestone layers. This forms holes, caves, springs, underground rivers, and the Florida aquifer
- 8-10,000 years ago: During the ice age, pre-historic animals (Pleistocene megafauna) migrated to Florida. Early humans followed after them. They came to springs like Devil’s Den for water. They often fell in and died.
- 1800’s: First discovered by early Florida settlers. The water table, and water level inside the spring, were much higher. It was used as a local swimming hole.
- 1900’s: the property cleared and used for farming and livestock. Like many Florida springs, Devil’s Den was used as a garbage dump.
- 1960’s: Archeologists found the skeletons from several early humans and many extinct, pre-historic animals, including:
- Prehistoric bear
- Sabre tooth tiger
- Several human skeletons
- 1970’s: SCUBA diving became popular, and people began trespassing to dive the springs. No stairs existed, so divers used ropes to lower their gear from the small hole in the ceiling. At this time, the hole in the ceiling was much smaller— just big enough for a body to squeeze through— because it hadn’t been enlarged yet. To avoid the liability of trespassers, the farmer land-owner decided to sell the land.
- 1990’s: Property was bought by Mike and Anna Lovas, to convert into a SCUBA diving facility. Access was dug, and stairs were constructed. The “solution hole” in the ceiling was enlarged to provide better access.
- 1993: Property was bought by current owners
Protecting Florida Springs
Like many other Florida springs, Devil’s Den was used as a garbage dump.
Unfortunately this was very common in the past. It’s hard to imagine, but it’s still a problem today; both in developing countries, and in Florida.
While exploring cenotes around Mexico I’ve been saddened to see the effects of pollution and abuse of the natural environment. Unfortunately, it’s still happening here in Florida, too, and all over the world.
In many ways, threats to Florida’s Springs more endangered now than they ever were in the past.