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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Social media drives larger crowds to Devil’s Den spring

Past patches of farmland and down a dirt road lies a secluded, deep blue spring. 

Devil’s Den has attracted swimmers since the 1880s, said scuba instructor Prince Johnston. What used to be a sinkhole where people skinny-dipped in the middle of a cow pasture now attracts thousands of college students each season. 

Visitors can snorkel or dive its 72-degree crystal clear waters, nestled beneath a dry cave of 10,000-year-old rock formations and fossil beds.

“You will not see another site like this on the eastern seaboard,” Johnston said.

Johnston said college students throughout north central Florida make up about half of its visitors, and social media attention this summer increased sales.

“We’ve never had this grand scale (of visitors),” Johnston said.

Renee Ryden, a 21-year-old UF linguistics senior, went to the spring in August after seeing a picture on her friend’s Instagram. 

“It’s a different environment,” Ryden said.

Only about 30 people can snorkel or dive at once in the prehistoric spring, but Johnston said the park is developing a spot-reserving system to avoid equipment shortages.

Velvet Yates, a UF classics professor, said the park was overcrowded the weekend she went.

 “It’s great that it’s so popular,” Yates said, “but it’s just kind of nuts on the weekends, especially in the summer.”

[A version of this story ran on page 4 on 9/12/2014 under the headline "Social media drives larger crowds to Devil’s Den spring"]

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