Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

River is UP–Sinkholes are not

Friday March 22, 2014
Manatee Springs State Park
Chiefland, FL



Can we kayak the river yet?


We’ve been wanting to kayak the Suwannee River and every day we go down to see how the river is flowing.  It’s $50 for a shuttle so we’re waiting for the usual slow rambling Suwannee that we could kayak up a few miles and then float down.  But with all the rains, the river is UP.

Today I again take the trail that leads from our campground, Hickory, directly over to the spring and then up the boardwalk to the Suwannee to check it out.

It’s a sweet short trail.






It leads from the campground over to Catfish Hotel which is a deep spring connected to the underground cave system here that is so popular with scuba divers and to the head spring.   In the map below, which you will see again later, the underground cave system is the blue lines.  Catfish Hotel is next to the campground and beyond it the blue leads to the head spring in one direction and under the Sink Hole Trail in the other.  I’m not sure where it goes after that.   It’s quite an underground system.





This morning, since it is Friday, no divers are here at 8:00 but there are two folks just enjoying the serenity of this pool.  Tomorrow, Saturday, will be a totally different story.




Manatee and cormorant are in the spring run’s shimmering waters.







The boardwalk leads from all along the spring run to the river and ends in dock and ramp.





The river is still up and still flowing.  We had thought about putting in at Fanning Springs State Park, 7 miles up river and coming down to Manatee Springs and then biking back to get the car.   But the spring run that leads to the kayak dock is closed until April 1st as you can see from this sign at the foot of the spring run where it joins the river.  I don’t think I want to leave my kayak tied to this floating dock in the high and moving water of the river.






My assessment made, I walk back down the boardwalk, through the beautiful cypress swamp and back to breakfast.









In the afternoon, instead of the kayak,  we decide to hike Sink Hole Trail.




We’ve hiked it before but never when the water was so high.  It turns out that the high water does make the sink holes much easier to see through the foliage of the woods.

Florida is famous or perhaps that’s infamous for its sinkholes, one of which swallowed a man and his house in March of last year.


Sinkholes form when slightly acidic groundwater dissolves limestone or similar rock that lies beneath the soil creating a large void or cavities. When the overlying ceiling can no longer support the weight of the soil and whatever is on top of it, the earth collapses into the cavity

Sinkholes have been happening for thousands of years in Florida.  Usually they are slow motion processes that take years. 



Sinkholes can reach more than 100 feet deep into the earth and spread across several hundred feet. Others are tiny — a few feet across and maybe a foot deep. Some hold water and form ponds.

Human activity can also cause sinkholes to develop. Excessive pumping of groundwater, for example, can cause the soil to settle. Others form under the weight of buildings or runoff-storage ponds, which cause the underground support material to collapse.



Sinkholes can also be created with rains following a drought and when large wells are being constructed and used causing the groundwater level to drop.  This can occur dramatically.  In 1998 , about 75 miles south of Manatee Springs, hundreds of large sink holes formed in a matter of six hours during installation of an irrigation well.




Continuous and record rainfall can cause sink holes. The saturation of the ground makes the sand layer heavier, which can cause the collapse of the sand into the cave.   And speaking of caves, remember the map above, there is a cave system full of water under this area.  We are walking on the Sink Trail which is the red line.  Our campground is the Green Loop.  The “cave trail” are all the blue lines.  The sink holes we are seeing are along the sink trail above/over/next to the cave trail. 





There are a pair of sinkholes on the trail with a land bridge between them.  One on each side and the ground there goes downhill between them.  I’m wondering how long until that ground collapses and it’s one big sinkhole.










We’re walking down the trail, talking about sinkholes when I look over and there is a deer munching on branches about 25’ from us.  We stop and watch her for quite some time.  She glances up.  Looks for a moment and goes back to her eating. 







She’s a beautiful creature and I’m just thrilled to be able to stay and calmly watch her going about her business.








In addition to the interesting sink holes, the trail itself is notable for its beauty.  It appears to be a mature central Florida forest with a wide open understory beneath a tall canopy of pines, southern magnolia and pignut hickory.  It has been wonderfully left to its fullest expression of itself and we are lucky enough to be able to enjoy it.











It wasn’t a paddle on the river, but it was definitely an interesting day experiencing two of the lovely habitats here at Manatee Springs.




  1. Interesting illustrations about sinkholes.

    Virtual hugs,


  2. There is definitely something so beautiful about deer, even though there are too many of them and not enough predators, and they carry ticks. They always have me reaching for my camera. As for sinkholes, I can't think of anything more frightening than the thought of being swallowed by the earth.

  3. With all those sinkholes, I hope you're stepping carefully as you walk... :c)

  4. That last pic is what I saw in my headlights coming home last night.

    Beautiful natural scenery you have there. It so different than the Desert I was in last week and I think I like it better. Great pics as usual.

  5. Hope you are able to do your kayak trip soon. But it looks like you had a good day. Very interesting about the sink holes.

  6. Just found your blog and have to say I have enjoyed reading posts back quite a ways. Nice to see other Pagans out there!

  7. We are having the same problem here with the Blackwater River...too much rain...too much water;o(( Moving to Torreya today and the rain is coming with us!!! We will be on the Appalachicola River, but doubtful for kayaking. Suppose to be some good hiking...let you know!! Remember seeing all the deer when we hike that trail:o))

  8. Ever see a sinkhole map for the whole state of Florida? It's a little alarming to look at! We don't have to worry about that where we are. Whew! Nice hike!

  9. We've seen a couple different sinkholes here in the forest. Nice deer pictures! There are a lot of deer wandering the VC grounds now, spring has sprung!

  10. You're in our favorite part of Florida! Our son and family live in Gainesville, but we always head for the rural areas with our 5th wheel when we visit. Wonderful 'old Florida' feel to all of the area. We will be there next winter for our first winter of retirement...YEAH!

  11. So you're the one who took the deer so I couldn't get a picture. LOL Very interesting about the sink hole. Sometimes I think this house is sitting on one--either that or where a builder buried all the trash. I've said it before but I'll say it, again. "You and David live every moment" No grass grows under your feet!

  12. Those deer eyes! They surely make it easy to fall in love with those guys/gals. Remind me of our Llama's eyes.

  13. Nice sinkhole lesson! And, nice "the end" - lol. I'm glad the deer didn't find you a distraction from her foraging. Nice close up photos. Cyprus looks so mysterious - Florida really has so much to enjoy when it comes to parks.

  14. Hi, I have been following your blog for a while now as my husband and I continue towards our goal of full timing this fall. I especially have enjoyed reading about your time in the various parks this past winter in Florida. I was going to ask you for suggestions for campgrounds and then there was your list. So, thank you.
    Catching up I noticed you mentioned traveling in the Great Lakes area this summer and asked for suggestions.
    When we first started camping we did a lot of tenting in the UP (Upper Peninsula of Michigan) plain and simple it was what we could afford. Besides it is good to know your own part of this beautiful country...:)
    The plan is to come back up this way for a portion of the year and I have started to do some research, not real detailed yet, on were we could stay in our 5th wheel.
    We have also done some camping in Lower Michigan and Wisconsin.
    My email is deb624@chartermi.net and if you would like to email me I would be happy to share what I have bookmarked so far.

  15. Florida is so wild, isn't it? I always learn something new reading your blog. I probably shouldn't read it before bedtime, though. I'll probably have nightmares about our trailer being swallowed by a sinkhole during the night. Looking forward to connecting with you soon!

  16. Great picture of the deer! and I don't do sink holes. another great day for you and well, all the adjectives are used up… ;) just wanted to say hey … and that, as always, enjoying your tour

  17. That is a nice park. We always enjoyed riding our bikes there.

  18. you guys are amazing with all your outside activiites. . .


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