Today we’re going to talk about Deep Hole, which happens to be one of the best gator-watching spots in Myakka River State Park, if not the whole state.
This remarkable sinkhole, about 200 feet across and 130 feet deep, is in the wilderness preserve part of the park. You have to hike 2 miles out and 2 miles back. Only 30 people a day are allowed to visit the site. They are far, far outnumbered by the alligators who gather at Deep Hole.
Dozens of gators. Hundreds of gators. Gators here, gators there, gators everywhere.
Smaller gators glide back and forth across the water. Larger gators sun themselves on the sandy shore. When I went to Deep Hole last week, the dark backs of all those gators contrasted nicely with the light wings of a huge flock of white pelicans. That image will stay with me for awhile.
Deep Hole kind of freaks me out, to tell you the truth.
The more I stare at the alligators, the more my mind wanders and imagination starts to work. In this prehistoric scene, they are the predators and we are the prey.
Deep Hole reminds of William Bartram, the famous naturalist who explored Florida in 1774. He described monstrous gators feeding on a run of fish through a narrow channel off the St. Johns River:
“Thousands, I may say hundreds of thousands, of them were caught and swallowed by the devouring alligators. I have seen an alligator take up out of the water several great fish at a time, and just squeeze them betwixt his jaws, while the tails of the great trout flapped about his eyes and lips, ere he had swallowed them.
“The horrid noise of their closing jaws, their plunging amidst the broken banks of fish, and rising with their prey some feet upright above the water, the floods of water and blood rushing out of their mouths, and the clouds of vapor issuing from their wide nostrils, were truly frightful.”
The walk out to Deep Hole is pretty easy, unless you’re completely out of shape. I saw a 10-year-old girl making the trip with her family.
The hike starts at a parking lot about a mile west of the main park entrance.
There are no signs along the way, but you don’t need any — just follow the dirt road all the way to the sinkhole.
There’s a lovely hammock of trees and then a dramatic opening to Deep Hole, which is usually thick with gators getting some sun. Quite a view.
If none of this has convinced you to make the trip, try searching for “Deep Hole” under the satellite photo section of Google Maps. Zoom all the way in on the sinkhole and you’ll start to get the picture. It’s pretty impressive online and pretty amazing in person.