Devil’s Den is a karst window, in which the roof over a subterranean river has collapsed, exposing the water to the open surface, near Williston, Florida. It is privately owned, and operated as a SCUBA diving training and recreational facility. Devil’s Den got its name from the early settlers in the area because of the smoke-like appearance caused by the warm water and the cold air during cold mornings.
The Den is the site for many interesting fossil finds. Many of these bones are at display at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The animal remains date from the Pleistocene Age (2 million to 10,000 years ago), and were largely from extinct species including mastodons, ground sloths, camels, horses, dire wolves, bog lemmings, Florida spectacled bears, saber-toothed cats, and peccaries. The human remains have been dated to about 75,000 B.C.
The opening to the surface was originally a small solution hole, through which visitors had to squeeze to reach the water. The opening was enlarged in the 1990s to ease access. The cave expands below water level (a shape described as an “inverted mushroom”) to up to 200 feet (61 m) across. The water level in the cave has fallen along with the water table in the area. The cave was opened to the public as a dive site in the early 1990s.
The water in the underground river is a constant 72 °F (22 °C) degrees, and is consistent even in winter. The spring, lit by sunbeams from above, stretches more than 100 feet across the cave bottom. It’s actually part of the Floridian Aquifer, an underground river that supplies much of the state’s fresh water.
For its wildlife, divers often see guppies, crappies, catfish and turtles as they explore underwater tunnels and ancient rock formations, including stalactites and fossil beds. If you visit, you will find open water and cavern diving at its best and will be fascinated by the rock formations with the stalactites and the 33 million year old fossil beds. Don’t forget to say hi to Virgil, the Den’s soft-shelled turtle.
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