Originally it was thought that Little Salt Spring was a shallow freshwater pond, but in the 1950s SCUBA divers discovered that it was a true sinkhole extending downward over two hundred feet (60 meters), similar to the cenotes of the Yucatán (another karst region). It was one of the first “wet site” discovered in Florida. During the 1970s exploration and excavation yielded well-preserved wood artifacts ranging from 7,000 to 12,000 years old. Many of these are of unknown function, as there are no other examples known with which they may be compared.
Donated to the University of Miami in 1982 by the General Development Corporation of Miami, the Little Salt Spring has been used by the University in a limited manner.
Scientists at the Rosenstiel School have been exploring the site since 1992, conducting an interdisciplinary field school there in prehistoric underwater archaeology for undergraduate and graduate students. Meticulous technique and minimal funding have limited excavation progress to what can be accomplished in the annual two-week field class. In 2007, Dr. Gifford and his colleagues and students unearthed two stakes and brought to the surface one of them, which they determined was 9,300 years old.