Leon Sinks Geological Area

Leon Sinks Geological Area is a recreation area in Apalachicola National Forest, just a few miles south of Tallahassee in Leon County.  The area protects a geologically fascinating section of the Woodville Karst Plain, where rainfall has eroded the limestone bedrock beneath the ground, forming caves, tunnels and sinkholes.  A number of sinkholes can be seen from the 5 miles of trails throughout the park.  Wet sinkholes are formed when the holes reach the groundwater table.  28 miles of underground caves have been mapped by professional cave divers, making it one of the largest known underwater caves in the world.  The area is open during daylight hours only - no camping - and there is a $3 per vehicle day-use fee.

Directions:

Leon Sinks Geological Area is between Tallahassee and Crawfordville.  From Tallahassee, go south on US-319/Crawfordville Road for about 7 miles and turn right into the Forest Service area.  The fee station is on the left just before reaching the parking lot.  It's self-serve so be sure to bring exact change.

Map:

Trails:

Crossover Trail:

Crossover Trail is a half-mile trail that links the ends of Gum Swamp and Sinkhole Trails.  It crosses Center Swamp on a long boardwalk with nice views of the gum tupelo trees.

Gum Swamp Trail:

Gum Swamp Trail is a 1.5-mile half loop that leads through the southern part of the area.  Although there are no sinkholes along this trail, it passes by a number of scenic cypress and gum swamps.

Sinkhole Trail:

Sinkhole Trail is a 2.5-mile half loop that passes the many sinkholes in the area.  See the Sinkholes section below for individual sinkholes.  To make a loop, follow either Gum Swamp or Crossover Trail to get back to the parking lot.

Sinkholes:

There are probably at least dozen sinkholes in the area.  The ones below are the ones I found in order of hiking Sinkhole Trail counterclockwise (right at the first intersection).  Some are wet and some are dry.  In the wet sinkholes, the limestone has been eroded all the way down to the groundwater table and then fills up with water.  Dry sinks are not deep enough to reach the groundwater.

Turner Sink:

Turner Sink is marked as a dry sink, but appeared to have water in it.  There was also flowering dogwood blooming around it.

Palmetto Sink:

Palmetto Sink is a dry sink with saw palmetto growing in it.

Hammock Sink:

Hammock Sink is a wet sink, also known as Little Dismal Sink.  This was my favorite one - the water was such a beautiful color.

Tiny Sink:

Tiny Sink is a dry sink and as the name suggests, very small.

Big Dismal Sink:

Big Dismal Sink is the biggest sink in the area.  The sink goes 130 feet down to the Floridan Aquifer.

Big Eight Sink:

Big Eight Sink is a dry sink.

Magnolia Sink:

Magnolia Sink is a wet sink, but there's so many downed trees, there's nothing to see.

Black Sink:

Black Sink is a wet sink with very dark water.

Duckweed Sink:

Duckweed Sink is a wet sink near Fisher Creek.

Lost Stream:

Fisher Creek is the Lost Stream, so named because it flows for only a mile before disappearing into a sinkhole.

Fisher Creek Rise:

Fisher Creek rise is where Fisher Creek falls into a sinkhole, flows under a natural bridge, and then re-emerges on the other side.

Fisher Creek Sink:

Fisher Creek falls into a sinkhole and flows under a natural bridge before popping back out on the other side.

Gopher Hole:

Gopher Hole is more of a cave than a sinkhole and the last one you'll come to if hiking counterclockwise around the loop.

Swamps:

There are several swamps in the southern part of the area.  Although somewhat similar in appearance to wet sinkholes, the swamps are very shallow and have gum tupelo and bald cypress trees growing in them.

Center Swamp:

Center Swamp is roughly in the middle of the area and is accessed from Crossover Trail.  A boardwalk leads across the swamp.

Shadows Swamp:

Shadows Swamp is the first swamp going clockwise on Gum Swamp Trail.

South Swamp:

South Swamp is a short ways past Shadows Swamp near the southern boundary of the area.

Bear Scratch Swamp:

Bear Scratch Swamp is the last swamp along Gum Swamp Trail.

Wildlife:

Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a small tree that flowers in the spring.


Mountain azalea (Rhododendron canescens) has beautiful white and pink flowers.

Blog Entries:

06-Mar-2018: Geological Wonders of Florida

External Links:

US Forest Service website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/apalachicola/recarea/?recid=75300