Heavenly dive: Devil's Den offers surreal swimming experience

- Nearly 60 feet below ground between Ocala and Gainesville, you'll find a cave that gives new meaning to the phrase "old swimming hole."

Tourists from across the world visit the Devil's Den, a prehistoric swimming pool off NE 180th Street in Williston, for the chance to literally dive deep into Florida's history.

Centuries ago, the ground collapsed, exposing an underground river in the city of Williston. Early Florida settlers were awestruck by the sight it created.

"They were coming across the landscape, and they suddenly saw smoke coming from the ground. They thought it was coming from that really bad place," said Rowena Thomas, manager of Devil's Den.

The warm water from underground springs caused steam to rise to the surface from the sinkhole.  The spooky name, Devil's Den, stuck. 

Snorkelers and divers who visit the den today are pleasantly surprised to find miraculous-looking views inside the cave, where sun rays beam onto rock formations, and the water is clear and blue in color.

"It's a little bit surreal. It's like a movie almost, like you're kind of in a different place. There's not much like it. It's a big cave underwater with really clear water," said Brennan Chase, who traveled from Gainesville with his brother, Zach, to check out the natural attraction.

"It's very blue, and there's a lot of turtles and fish down there," added Zach Chase.

Swimmers strap on goggles, fins and a wet suit, if they desire, to swim in the 50-foot deep spring. It's surrounded by ancient rock formations dating back 33 million years.

Green plants flow through the chimney-like opening at the top of the cave, creating a calming, peaceful environment.

"The light from the top makes it really bright on the bottom. I expected it to be dark," offered Alex Stark, who traveled from Lakeland.

Most divers are also pleasantly surprised to find the water temperatures is a constant 72 degrees year-round, due to the underground springs that feed into the cave.

"It's just like you're in another planet. That's exactly what it's like. You go underwater and you see these rock formations, it's blue-blue water, and it's outstanding," added Thomas.

Snorkeling in the Devil's Den costs $15 per person on weekdays and $20 on weekends. Diving costs $38.

For more information, visit www.devilsden.com

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