I think most Floridians have seen a video or heard of The Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring. A couple of years ago, there was a spree of promotional videos that captivated the imagination of any of us that did not already know about this spring. If you’ve seen any of those videos or pictures like me, you probably wonder what it’s like to visit. Most specifically, you probably want to know what the experience entails. Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring is a privately-owned scuba diving training center that you can also snorkel to experience.
Getting to the Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring
Located north of Ocala and south of Gainesville in a small town called Williston. The Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring is in the middle of rural Florida. And, while this might be off the beaten track for most, if you have an interest in caves or diving, this is an area to check out. This area is also home to the Blue Grotto Dive Resort, another cave system you can explore.
Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring is located at 5390 NE 180 Ave, Williston, FL 32696.
About the Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring
The Devil’s Den is essentially an underground cave spring that has an opening exposing it providing light. A karst window forms the opening this is created from the dissolution of soluble rocks. The original opening at the surface appeared to be a sinkhole. Before 1990, visitors had to squeeze through a small hole to reach the spring waters. Once the cave became open to the public in the mid-1990s, the opening was enlarged to create a more accessible access point. Predominantly a dive center, the company that owns it offers scuba diving and snorkeling experiences. Devil’s Den is a sinkhole and cave system that is fed by an underground spring.
Entering Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring
Something is encapsulating and mysterious about this spring. Perhaps it’s the name or the fact that it’s mostly an underwater cave. Either way, even if it did not have an enticing name, once you see the entrance, you know that it’s going to be an experience, unlike others. If you’re into Instagram or always in search of the epic shot or a photograph – this place was made for you!
You enter via a concrete staircase that leads you to the top of the metal stairs that descend you on to the platform at the bottom. Entering the concrete steps is eerie. Even though you’ve seen the photos, you don’t know what to expect, and that makes your heart race. Then, when you see the spring, it’s as if you’ve personally discovered an oasis — reminded that you did not by the group of people gathered on the entrance platform below you.
Down the metal stairs to the entrance platform and immediately you are awoken by the temperature of the water. The underground spring is a constant 72 degrees. Which, even on a hot summers day in Florida is chilly at first feel. We opted to snorkel because we are not certified to dive. And, if we were certified I am not sure I would dive here simply because I am a tad claustrophobic and the depths here would be too much for me. Add to this; you can only see so far before you need a flashlight. The darkness freaked me out.
Snorkeling Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring
The cave reaches depths of 54 feet, and the surface is 120 feet wide. I must admit that it’s smaller than I anticipated. Or, maybe the best way to describe this is I made the assumption (you know what assumptions are) that we would be able to snorkel under the water into spots of the cave. It turns out, this is not the case, and if you snorkel, you will float on the surface and swim in a circle.
If you dive, you will be able to explore what’s hidden beneath. Four underwater passages extend from the pool under the opening, from 5 feet to 90 feet under the surface of the water. The passages contained animal and human remains dating back to approximately 7,500 BC. Don’t worry; you are not going to run into remains; they were removed. Many of these bones are at display at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Let’s Get Wet!
Once you float or jump off the entrance platform, you begin to experience what everyone comes to see — the underwater view of the cave system. The water is clear but only for a few feet. You will see the fish that live here, and if you are lucky, you’ll see one of the resident turtles. As you swim around floating on the top, you will see diver after diver exploring and many returning up from below with flashlights to guide them to the surface. The divers seem to appear from nowhere. You can be gazing at rock formations, and suddenly you see the light followed by a diver. Unusual and creepy at the same time. Then there are the snorkelers, be prepared to bump into each other, it’s almost unavoidable.
Perhaps the most captivating view of all is the karst window – the opening above the cave that allows the sun to shine through. It is covered in moss which dangles down giving the cave an overgrown menacing look, but it’s fitting. We spent about an hour taking in the beauty of both before we decided to ascend.
What You Need to Know
- Only those that can swim will be allowed entry. You must be able to swim, and I would go as far as to say you need to be a strong swimmer. It is not a place for someone that can’t swim. And, no floatation devices of any sort are allowed.
- You 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.
- Reservations are not accepted; it’s first come first served. Priority is given to divers; they get first dibs.
- If you go on a holiday or a busy summer day, you may not get it so go early.
- There are no lockers on-site; you will lock your valuables in your car and leave your keys at the check-in office.
- You can stay on site. There are four cabins you can rent, an RV site and a campground. The sites have port-a-potties and more permanent restroom facilities near the check-in station.
- There is a gift store on site.
- If visiting through the week bring your own food. The campsite only offers food via a food truck during the weekends.
- As of August 2019, hours are Monday – Thursday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Friday – Sunday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- The spring is open 364 days a year, the only day it is not open is Christmas Day.
- Service animals are the only four-legged friends that are welcome.
- As of August 2019, it costs $24 per person to snorkel. You can check here for all other prices that are subject to change.
Diving and Snorkeling
- Snorkeling mask, snorkel, and fins are required, and free diving fins or breath-hold diving is not allowed.
- If you are diving an open water certification or above is required, and you must have a dive buddy.
- You can use your snorkeling or diving equipment, or you can rent from the facility.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Can you swim at Devil’s Den?
The technical answer is yes because you have to be able to “swim” to enter. However, you must be snorkeling or diving to enter. You cannot enter without snorkeling or diving equipment. In other words, you cannot come for a leisurely swim.
Why is it called the Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring?
When the original discoverers came upon Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring smoke was rising from the karst window. They assumed the smoke to be rising from Hell or Satan’s lair. Once you see it for yourself, you will understand why. They quickly realized it was steam rising from the spring. The name Devils Den stuck, and it’s since been adapted to Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring because it dates to 7,500 BC.
FYI: Only on cold winter mornings you can see steam.
Is Devil’s Den dog-friendly?
No, the only animals permitted are service animals.
Where To Stay
You can stay onsite in a cabin, RV or tent. Or you can choose to stay in one of the hotels in the area.
All Hotels Close To The Devil’s Den Spring
Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring is an exciting place to visit. Another Atlas Obscura pick, a resource that is known to travel enthusiasts for highlighting unique things to do all over the world. Particularly of interest to those that dive. I’m glad that we experienced this. The only drawback is that this is not a day attraction, it’s an experience for a couple of hours. You are limited to a two-hour snorkel, but this is ample time. As a result, if you are planning to check this out, I would suggest you combine it with another activity or have plans for the rest of your day. Would I recommend you visit? Yes, but as mentioned with the mindset of spending an hour or two on route to somewhere.
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