Most hikers of the Tallahassee area have heard of or even been to Leon Sinks. How many have heard of Wakulla River Sinks though? Along with adjacent Apalachicola National Forest, the River Sinks Tract - a lesser-known parcel of Wakulla Springs State Park - holds nearly two dozen water-filled sinkholes. The sinks serve as a portal to the mysterious underground water-filled cave system that eventually connects to the Wakulla River to the southeast. An official trail called the Wakulla River Sinks Trail passes by several small sinks, including the photogenic Clearcut Sink. If one extends their hike along the unofficial pathway that splits off and leads to a series of bigger sinks, including Promise Sink and Upper River Sink, they are bound to be astounded! This hike occurred on Saturday, January 6th, 2018. My plan was to hike the official Wakulla River Sinks Trail clockwise. Along the way, I would make out-and-back side trips to Clearcut Sink and along an unofficial trail to a series of sinks to the south.
R/T Length of Trail: 4.0 Miles
Duration of Hike: 2:10 plus 45 minutes of stopping
Type of Hike: Lasso and Spur
Difficulty Rating: 2 out of 10
Total Elevation Gain: Minimal (120 Feet)
Pros: Lots of beautiful sinkholes to see
Cons: The unofficial part of the trail has a few unmarked intersections that could be confusing
Points of Interest: Venture Sink, Log Jam Sink, Trench Sink, Woods Sink, Cream Sink, Go Between Sink, Promise Sink, Cypress Knees near Promise Sink, Upper River Sink, Clearcut Sink
Trail Blaze Colors: Official Wakulla River Sinks Trail - Orange; Unofficial Wakulla River Sinks Trail - None
Best Seasons to Hike: Spring
Fees: A $4 entry fee is charged per car for the River Sinks Tract.
Beginning Point: Parking area off C J Spears Road
Directions from Tallahassee, FL: From the intersection of Capital Circle (FL 263/US 319 North) and Crawfordville Road (FL 61/US 319 South), follow Crawfordville Road South (US 319 South). Stay right where FL 61 South splits off to the left. 6.4 miles from Capital Circle, turn left onto C J Spears Road. In 100 feet, turn right onto the unpaved River Sinks Tract entrance road. Reach the dead-end parking area in another 200 feet.
Click the link below to download a .GPX file with a track of this hike.
Before I delve into the trail report for the Wakulla River Sinks hike, I'd like to thank photographer Michael Riffle for guiding me to on this trail to most of the sinks. I had never heard about this hike prior to his telling me. Leon Sinks, only a mile away, is much more popular, and clearly, it overshadows Wakulla River Sinks. I did both sinks hikes on this day, and ultimately, I think that I preferred Wakulla River Sinks. The Wakulla River Sinks Trail is much less developed and more remote than Leon Sinks, although that's not to say that Leon Sinks doesn't have spectacular sinks such as Hammock Sink.
The hike begins at the trailhead kiosk and gate. Unfortunately, while the kiosk map shows all of the area sinks, it doesn't show the full trail system. It only shows the official 2-mile loop trail, but the most spectacular sinks are on the unofficial part of the trail. Pass around the gate and follow the broad forest road to the beginning of the loop at 0.25 miles. To hike the loop clockwise, stay left. The forest road's route mostly passes through pine flatwoods. These slash pines were once logged when this area was private property, but after the state acquired the tract, the pines were left to grow tall. Other forest roads leave left at 0.6 miles and 0.8 miles. Venture Sink - the first sink along the trail - is to the right at 0.85 miles. All of the sinks have very clear and blue water if there hasn't been a lot of rain in a while. Venture Sink is a medium-sized sink, and during low water, it can actually appear as two sinks with a small dry strip in the middle. The next sink is Log Jam Sink to the right at 0.9 miles. Log Jam Sink is smaller than Venture Sink but is a little more scenic. The water seems to have a bluer tone and one end of the oval sink is lined with small cypress knees.
There's an important intersection just past Log Jam Sink at 0.95 miles. The official trail turns right and heads in the direction of Clearcut Sink and the parking area. However, this hike continues straight on a narrower unofficial trail. Ironically, a brown sign reads "Service Road - Not Trail", but you should ignore it. As you start down the unofficial sinks trail, you'll see two unimpressive sinks - Woods Sink to the right and Trench Sink to the left. Trench Sink is usually covered in green duckweed. The unofficial trail leaves state property and temporarily enters Apalachicola National Forest here. Stay on the distinct trail to reach a short spur trail to Cream Sink on the right at 1.05 miles. Cream Sink is a pretty large sink that has a wild look unlike any other sink along the hike. Most of the sink's steep banks are enshrouded in tangles of vegetation. One benefit of hiking this trail in the spring is that most trees will have leaves on them by then, but yet, the temperatures should still be bearable and biting bugs should be absent. All the sinks are more scenic when they're lined with vivid greenery.
Come to a split in the trail at 1.15 miles. To the right is a bypass for Promise & Go Between Sinks that you'll take on the way back. Thus, stay left and drop down a small hill to reach the pair of sinks at 1.2 miles. Go-Between Sink is on the right. It's small, partially covered in duckweed, and overly not very scenic. On the left is elongated Promise Sink, a large and very beautiful sink. Unfortunately, the shores of Promise Sink are home to a population of thriving invasive plants. Bamboo and Cherokee roses were planted by the previous owners of this area (this used to be private property before it became part of Apalachicola National Forest). For the best view of Promise Sink, continue 100 feet on the main trail and take a short spur trail on the left to a small bluff above the sink. This is the best place to observe the sink's blue waters. Another reason to do this hike in the dry season (winter or spring) is that you have a better chance of seeing the sinks in their clearest state. If you look closely at the large overhanging cypress tree on the other side of the sink, you'll notice a makeshift wooden ladder on it. Yes, people actually jump into the sink from the tree! Even though the sink is deeper than it looks, it's still quite scary.
The next sight along the trail is a depression with a fascinating patch of mossy cypress knees on the left at 1.3 miles. Part of the patch is even covered by a field of ferns that fill up the space between the cypress knees. Surprisingly, there's few actual cypress trees among the rows of gnome-like knees. After the cypress knee patch, the path becomes turns a little overgrown as it curves southwest before rejoining the bypass trail at 1.4 miles. Turn left on the trail to Upper River Sink. Shortly after re-entering state property, the path joins a broad forest road that comes in from private property to the west at 1.7 miles. Finally, at 1.9 miles, the trail ends at Upper River Sink.
Upper River Sink is the grand finale. This is a very deep and huge sink! From the outcrop above the sink at the end of the trail, you can't even see the sink's far end due to the curve it makes in the distance. Furthermore, Upper River Sink is around 80 feet deep. Standing at its edge, you can see an underwater limestone drop-off that provides a small hint about the sink's amazing depth. Deep beneath the surface, Upper River Sink connects to an underground water-filled cave system just like all other sinks along the trail do, and eventually, the water reaches the Wakulla River. Paths lead down both sides of Kini Sink to different viewpoints. Upper River Sink also has its own tree to jump off from like Promise Sink does. Another name that's sometimes used for Upper River Sink is Kini Sink, although it seems that Upper River Sink is the officially-recognized name.
From Upper River Sink, retrace your steps back to the official trail. Stay left when you reach the Promise Sink bypass trail. The bypass passes near Fish Hole Sink to the west. Although it's a large sink, there's no visible side trail to it. Return to the official loop trail by Woods Sink and Trench Sink at 2.75 miles. Turn left to keep following the loop clockwise. Where there's no sinks, the trail is pretty monotonous in the pine flatwoods. At 3.25 miles, a signed side trail leaves right to the final sink of the hike: Clearcut Sink. The spur trail ends at the sink at 3.4 miles. This small oval-shaped sink is another photogenic one. Cypress knees line its left side, and at the far end is a massive cypress tree that guards the sink.
Return to the main trail and reach the end of the loop at 3.75 miles. Continue straight, retracing your first steps of the day, and conclude the hike at 4.0 miles. I decided to rate this hike as a "Best Hike" due to all the uniquely beautiful sinks. Although the Wakulla River Sinks hike is pretty short, it's still one of the most scenic hikes I've done in the Florida Panhandle.
0.0 - Wakulla River Sinks Trailhead
0.85 - Venture Sink
0.9 - Log Jam Sink
1.05 - Cream Sink
1.2 - Go-Between & Promise Sinks
1.3 - Cypress Knees
1.9 - Upper River Sink
3.4 - Clearcut Sink
4.0 - Wakulla River Sinks Trailhead
Hike out and back to Clearcut Sink - 1.2 Miles
Hike just the Wakulla River Sinks Loop - 2.2 Miles
Hike the Wakulla River Sinks Loop with a side trip to Promise Sink - 2.7 Miles
Pictures & Videos
Mark Oleg Ozboyd
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