They say that whatever you are doing on the first day of the year sets the barometer for how the rest of the year will go. I decided this year I would start off with an adventure to kick off my 2016. You’ve seen my 2016 adventure bucketlist, so I’m counting on this year to be one of the most adventurous ever. On New Year’s Day, my son and my adventure buddy Nicole and I headed north of Tampa to a little sleepy town called Williston, FL. If you blink, you’ll miss it. I had been dying to get to the famed Devil’s Den, an underground spring in a prehistoric cavern. What better day to visit Devil’s Den than the first day of the year!
If you live in Florida this is one place you should definitely experience in your lifetime. The countless pictures I’ve seen on Pinterest really don’t do it justice. When you walk into that cavern for the first time and see this pool of bright aqua blue water shimmering beneath you, it’s a soul-stirring moment. There is literally nothing around for miles and yet here is this paradise hidden beneath the surface of the earth.
The cavern is famous for having animal remains discovered here from the Pleistocene Age (2 million – 10,000 years ago). They even discovered bones of early man dating back to 75,000 B.C. In an effort to preserve the extreme clarity of the water and reduce the damage done to the area due to heavy human traffic, noodles were banned from use inside the spring. This means that if you come to snorkel, you cannot have a flotation device.
Truth moment: I was nervous as hell. The water is 30 feet deep in places and the prospect of snorkeling sans noodle or float did not sit well with me. Yes, I can swim. I wouldn’t say I’m the world’s best swimmer and I cannot tread water to save my life. I know that’s a popular saying, but I’m serious. If I need to tread water to live, I’m in trouble. Not gonna happen.
Sooooo what to do? Suck it up and channel my inner Nemo of course. There is a platform at the base of the stairs where you can put your fins on and get your snorkel gear nice and comfortable. I had a game plan. I would swim as long as I could and then just come back to the platform to rest up as often as I needed to.
That water is cold and NO you don’t really get used to it. Supposedly it’s 72 degrees but it felt way colder than the freshwater springs I’ve swam in and my body never really got used to the temperature.
None of that will matter once you are in this blue abyss. I glided off of the platform and to my surprise I floated with very little effort. I was so buoyant. This is freshwater, not salt, so it was very unexpected to float so easily. I put my face into the water and I saw lots of fish swimming all around us! Those rocks that you can see from above that look like they are just beneath the surface area really way down below.
It was like a whole new blue world down there. There were places where I couldn’t see the bottom. That freaked me out a little bit. I can’t lie. Looking down into a blue abyss that goes into dark nothingness is a very surreal and uneasy feeling. If you ever had to illustrate what “nothingness” looks like, that would be it.
There wasn’t any vegetation but it was still really neat to look at the different rocks below. I presume those big rocks are from where the opening of the cavern caved in those many many many years ago. We swam and played and took pictures and video. There really isn’t much to do, but if you go with friends you will have a good time. This is a very popular place for scuba divers who come to explore the deep depths of the cavern. Surprisingly this is still considered an open water dive so you only need your open water diving certification to get your scuba on. #Goals! I’ll definitely be back after I get that certificate under my belt this year.
It’s one of the most beautiful and unique places in this entire state, even in the entire country. People travel the world to visit cenotes but this place is worth the trip. You need to visit Devil’s Den at some point in your life.
Things To Know To Plan Your Own Outdoorsy Adventure:
1. They do not give tours of the spring to non swimmers. You must pay to snorkel or dive to get access to the spring.
2. You can bring your own snorkel gear and fins. Rental for the snorkel gear is an additional fee. Fins are required.
3. Try to come early in the morning for fewer people. When it starts to get crowded it’s way less enjoyable.
4. Visit www.devilsden.com for pricing and other info. Tip: Prices are lower on weekdays/non-holidays
5. Make a visit over to the Blue Grotto dive resort. The Blue Grotto is an amazing blue hole famous with local divers. You can visit Blue Grotto and take pictures but you cannot snorkel there. Divers only. If my year goes as planned I’ll be certified and able to dive it later this year.
Lauren G. , Outdoorsy Diva™
“Adventure is a lifestyle.”