: Apalachicola National Forest Leon Sinks Geological Area
Geographic Location: south of
Length: 4.4 miles
Difficulty: 3/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Last Hiked: December 2012
Overview: An interesting hike featuring sinkholes and swamps.
Area Information: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/apalachicola/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=75300&actid=50
Google Map: http://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=146043
Directions to the trailhead: From
Tallahassee, drive south on US 319 7 miles to the signed entrance for Leon Sinks on the right. Turn right to enter the area and drive the short entrance road to a nice blacktop parking area with newly constructed restroom facility and information kiosk. Park here.
The hike: Extending from southern
Tallahassee to the Gulf of Mexico, the Woodville Karst is one of Florida’s most interesting geological areas. Like other karst formations, the Woodville Karst is characterized by an abundance of caves, springs, and sinkholes. These landforms are created over many years as water dissolves the limestone bedrock, causing large chunks of the rock to collapse underground. Most of the world’s major cave systems are found in areas with karst geology.
Contained in the northeastern corner of
, the Leon Sinks Geological Area protects one of the largest concentrations of sinkholes in the Woodville Karst. The sinks themselves are accessed by the 2.5 mile appropriately named Sinkhole Trail. The many interpretive signs along the way make the Sinkhole Trail a real-world outdoor classroom in karst geology. In addition to the Sinkhole Trail, the 1.7 mile Gumswamp Trail takes hikers around a swampy area just south of the sinks. This description combines both of these trails for the 4.4 mile grand tour of Leon Sinks. Apalachicola National Forest
|Information kiosk at trailhead|
|Sandy-based Sinkhole Trail|
After climbing out of Dry Sink, the trail assumes a meandering course as it passes several sinks one right after another. The terrain at Leon Sinks is fairly flat except for the sinkholes, so the hiking is quite easy unless you choose to take a side trail into one of the sinks. More old logging roads are crossed, but each of these crossings is well signed.
At 0.6 miles, you reach the first wet sink, Hammock Sink. Since every sink you have seen up to this point has been dry, the deep clear waters of Hammock Sink may surprise you. Sinks can be wet or dry depending on how deep they fall into the ground. Wet sinks plunge deep enough to penetrate the Floridan aquifer, a vast underground river that underlies most of
Florida’s panhandle. Dry sinks are dry because they are not deep enough to reach the aquifer. Hammock Sink in particular is an entrance to an underwater cave system that has been shown to link to Wakulla Springs some 10 miles to the southeast. A wooden overlook extends over the water, and abundant aquatic life can be seen in the clear waters. Take a few minutes to see what you can see.
0.9 miles into the hike, you reach Big Dismal Sink. Big Dismal Sink is another wet sink, and a relatively new wooden overlook provides a great view of the cliff-lined body of water. I heard some dripping while I stood on this overlook, and an interpretive sign told me that this is the sound of water dripping out of the sink and into the Floridan aquifer. At over 130 feet deep, Big Dismal Sink is the largest sink at Leon Sinks, so take some time to admire the landform.
|Big Dismal Sink|
Near 2.1 miles you reach the signed spur trail to Lost Stream Overlook. This short spur leads to an overlook of Lost Stream Sink, so named because Fisher Creek flows in... but never flows out. In fact water does flow out, but it flows out of the bottom of the sink into the underground Floridan aquifer.
The main trail used to ford Fisher Creek below the sink, but now it has been rerouted to tread high on the cliffs above the sink. Another 0.4 miles of meandering leads the Sinkhole Trail to Fisher Creek Sink. The trail crosses Fisher Creek on a wide, large natural bridge (you might not even recognize it as a natural bridge if it were not signed as such) and reaches an intersection. The white-blazed Crossover Trail continues straight and gives a shortcut back to the trailhead, but this hike will take the full tour by turning right to begin the Gumswamp Trail, which is marked with yellow paint blazes.
|Fisher Creek Sink|
|Bear Scratch Swamp|