Sinkhole Status Report
Whatever happened to all the popular skinny-dipping spots south of Tallahassee? For a few years, the public was blocked from all of them. Now, some have become accessible once more. Once a year, Tallahassee Naturally conducts a tour of the best ones. This report on current conditions runs roughly from north to south. Be aware that the names are not completely standardized.
- Lakes in the National Forest--Leon County
- Leon Sinks
- The Gator Group of Sinkholes--Wakulla County
- Other Sinkholes Now Owned By Wakulla Springs
- Sinkholes in the National Forest--Wakulla County
- Sinkholes on Private Land
Lost Lake and the lake east of it
There is no National Forest law prohibiting nudity--except in populated and posted areas like Lost Lake. But that never stopped Leon County deputy sheriffs from harassing people and spoiling their day. Don't be stupid. Go over the county line where Wakulla County deputies have more important things to do.
Sam Allen Lake (Lofton Pond)
Hundreds of college students used to gather here in the early eighties. Then the sheriff's department raided the place and arrested seven people. One demanded a jury trial and won. The lake has remained nude ever since, but has been taken over by aggressively gay people. If you're not part of that crowd, you will be made to feel most unwelcome. Stay away.
In the name of preserving public access, Leon County bought these sinkholes and established a hiking trail. But the first thing they did was prohibit all swimming--clothed or otherwise. In this case it was not a big loss.
With its dangerously steep sides, Big Dismal was always a place for only the most foolhardy.
This place had some swimming potential that will now never be realized.
As far back as anyone can remember, the St. Joe Paper Company kept these sinkholes open to the public as skinny-dipping places. Then the company went out of the paper business, and into the land development business. To wean the public off their lands, they leased millions of acres to a hunting club, that posted "No Trespassing" signs. After a few years, they transferred these sinkholes to Wakulla Springs. Unfortunately, Wakulla Springs is part of the State Parks System--the most aggressively anti-nudity unit in state government. Though a "No Trespassing" sign from the hunter days has not been taken down, Wakulla Springs officials say hiking is OK, but no nudity. If you get caught skinny-dipping, you will probably be in trouble. The area has recently been fenced, but is rarely patrolled.
This double sinkhole was always too close to the road and too often covered with duckweed to be of any use for skinny-dipping.
We don't know whether this is a new name, or an old name that has been revived. For decades, the place was known only as the trashed-out sink before Gator. Wakulla Springs has done a fine job of cleaning up this eyesore. It is now swimable.
During the sixties, hundreds of people skinny-dipped here each weekend. Then a minister poured a barrel of oil on the water. Shortly afterward, his church mysteriously burned, and he left town. By the eighties, the water had cleared, and the youth group Inward Venture terraced the area and built a fine set of cement steps. For years, Tallahassee Naturally kept the trash cleaned up, and held our Full-Moon Skinny-Dips there because the gently sloping bottom was safe for nighttime access. Today, the place is suffering for lack of that loving care. The steps have caved in, and weeds partially choke the entrance.
Tallahassee Naturally pioneered the hidden trail to this little-known sinkhole. The entrance platform has partially washed out. But the organic debris in the water has now cleared, making this site better than ever. One recent map calls it Black Gum Sink.
The clear blue-green water gives this sinkhole its name, and has long made it a popular place for divers. Wakulla Springs (which refused to work with us) has co-operated with the divers, who continue to maintain a ladder and diving platform. Divers have in recent years explored much of the underground river system that connects most of the sinkholes. Leave this place for them. Signs say "No Trespassing."
Not known in the old days, this quiet cypress-lined pool is now seeing a bit of use. But you could still be in trouble if you get caught.
When the forest service bought these sinkholes in the eighties--supposedly to preserve them for public use--St. Joe Paper Company kept the road frontage that provided the only access to them. The hunters blocked all access, which is completely illegal. But instead of enforcing the law, the forest service figured life would be easier for them if no one went to the forest, so they closed their Wakulla office down the road.
Just inside the national forest and Wakulla County, these places are legal. The forest road that used to run west of these sinkholes all the way to Upper Riversink has completely grown over. It has been diverted to join the path from C.J. Spears Road at Woods Sink. A parking area has been built on C.J. Spears Road, so more people are coming in from that direction. With clarity all the way to the bottom during parts of the year, Promise and Go-Between have long been regarded as the premium sinkholes for daytime skinny-dipping. Some younger users are now mistakenly calling them Twin Sinks or Sister Sinks.
Everything remains unchanged--the stairs, the many underwater trees that restrict swimming to a small area. It is still a weak alternative if the better sinkholes are occupied by people in swimsuits.
Always the poorest alternative because of the many underwater trees and difficult access. A new stairway has changed that. Slightly off the trail, this one offers a little more seclusion on a crowded day.
A natural rock wall about six feet beneath the surface bisects this sinkhole. When the water is clear, people have been known to swim through a hole in that wall--hence the name. For years, an older couple named Bob and Janice looked after this sinkhole, planting lots of flowers that bloomed all year. Only a couple of rose bushes remain. The neglected place is now in terrible shape. A huge tree has fallen into the overgrown clearing, and a smaller one into the water. The stairs remain, but few people use them any more.
Promise remains as magnificent as it ever was. Even a new rope swing has failed to attract a bunch of rednecks, so skinny-dipping continues--but less frequently than before. Only people willing to hike the mile or more use it.
With its steep banks and duckweed cover, this place never was any good for swimming.
This has long been the site of two private homes. Skinny-dipping continues there, but only by invitation.
A private home now blocks access to this once-popular spot. But some people are still getting at it by the long trail from C.J. Spears Road.
For a guide to some of these wonderful places, come on Tallahassee Naturally's annual sinkhole tour, or contact us for a possible private excursion.