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Springs Outing: Payne’s Prairie Sinkhole Swarm Hike
February 16 @ 10:00 am - 2:00 pm$10.00 – $20.00
Florida Springs Institute Spring Outing: Payne’s Prairie Sinkhole Swarm Hike w/ biologist and cave diver, Tom Morris.
The goal of Florida Springs Institute Springs Outings are to connect nature lovers with the outdoors and give them the opportunity to learn about Florida’s rich landscape from qualified experts and scientists. Each Spring Outing holds a new adventure, and with it, new information and experiences, even for the most seasoned adventure enthusiasts! Proceeds from Spring Outings benefit the Florida Springs Institute so we may continue vital springs research and education efforts.
Spring Outing Details
Payne’s Prairie is the largest (21,000 acres) example in Florida of a mature karst landscape feature known as a polje, which is a flat-floored closed basin that becomes a lake during wet seasons and drains underground into a swallet. The active swallet in the Payne’s Prairie polje is currently at Alachua Sink, in the northeast corner of the basin. The dissolution of limestone is intense near the swallet, resulting in the rapid void formation and subsequent sinkhole collapse.
This process has resulted in a remarkable group of very large and deep sinkholes in the upland area near Alachua Sink. The sinkholes have very steep sides that erode quickly, and over time the sinks coalesce and form larger sinkholes that eventually become one with the main body of the polje. That is how Payne’s Prairie formed and how it is currently expanding its boundary.
The folks at Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park have agreed to take us on a ranger-guided tour of the sinkhole field, which is normally off-limits due to the fragile nature of sinkholes. Expect to see impressively large sinkholes of various ages and in various stages of coalescence.
After the upland sinkhole tour, we will hike down onto the prairie floor to view the active swallet, and then walk out to the end of the elevated boardwalk to view Alachua Lake and the now flooded prairie. The birding should be great, and we will probably get to watch the limpkins feeding on apple snails from South America, and maybe even get to see the very rare Everglades kites that have shown up on the prairie to feast on the exotic snails.
The hike will not be strenuous; there will be only minor elevation changes, the pace will be leisurely, and the distance covered will probably be about a mile-and-a-half.
We will meet at 10 AM at the La Chua Trail parking lot. Bring a bag lunch. The hike should be over by 2 PM, but we will never be far from our cars, so folks can easily leave early if need be.
General admission and student tickets available for purchase below. For questions, please comment below or email the Florida Springs Institute at email@example.com. Thank you!
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