Monday, September 5, 2016

Walking Underground in the Florida Caverns

Florida underground caverns state park
The Florida Caverns State Park
What! There are Caverns in Florida?  That is what I said to myself, when I first heard about Florida Caverns State Park.  I also knew, I had to check it out.

The Florida Caverns State Park is 1,300 acres.  Guided Cave Tours are offered Thursday through Monday except on Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Hiking Trail
When Nadia and I were done visiting Wakulla Springs State Park we drove over to Marianna, FL.  According to my GPS it said we were going to arrive around 4:30 p.m., which was only 20 minutes.  I thought that was pretty fast, but what I did not realize, was that the time would change along our route.  So, it took an hour to drive to Marianna from Wakulla Springs.  

When we arrived we got some food and a place to stay.  We stayed at Fairfield Inn by Marriott, it was very nice and about 15 minutes from the Caverns.

Florida Caverns State Park

My plan the next morning was to get up early and go to the Florida Caverns State Park as soon as they opened.  I was planning on driving back home after our tour and it was an eight hour drive.

Well, we arrived at 9:30, but unfortunately there were school tours going on that day!  The next available tour was 12:30 p.m.  I took it.  I did not care what time I got home that evening, I was going on a tour of those Caverns Gosh Darn it!

Hiking Trail Florida Caverns State Park
Some Interesting Flowers a long the trail
Luckily, this was a very cool park.  Nadia and I went hiking while we were waiting for our tour.  They have a Beech Magnolia Trail; a Bluff Trail and a Tunnel Cave!  If you just take the trail from the visitor center, you will do all of these trails in one.  It was one of the best trails we have been on in Florida.  Nadia and I both could not believe we were hiking in Florida, because we actually went up hill and down hill.

hiking at florida caverns

While on your hike, keep you kids close by and watch where you walk.  You do not want to take a wrong step and slide off the trail.  There are also some cave openings. 

cave openings along the hiking trail

The trail winds along the Chipola River Floodplain.  A floodplain is natures sponge filter and maintains flood control, for instance, when the Chipola River overflows from heavy rain. 

Chipola River floodplain florida
Chipola River Floodplain
I thought this cave below, was the Tunnel Cave, but it was actually the exit door to the Caverns. (The door was freezing cold and thankfully locked)

We finally came upon the Tunnel Cave.  Of course being the adventurist type, I immediately started walking through the tunnel and got halfway through and thought to myself, "What the heck am I doing?  Didn't the lady say there were bats in here, there could be a bat right next to my head?"  It was dark, but I made it through with no bats.  Nadia loved it.

Inside the Tunnel Cave

Nadia enjoyed this trail so much, that I was shocked when she said, "Let's Do It Again!" Ok! we had the time to kill and I was glad she was enjoying herself outdoors, I also liked the trail.

When we were done, we checked out the visitor center.  They had some nice exhibits and talked about bats.

I then went back to the car and got our cooler and we had a picnic.  By then, it was time for our tour!!!

Hiking Trails at Florida Caverns state park

It was time for the Park Ranger to take the 12:30 group tour down into the Cavern.  He told us we were going spelunking! Which means going Caving and in Ireland and United Kingdom, I hear it is called potholing. (There is your interesting Fact for the day!)

Heading down into the caverns in florida
Heading Down into the Caverns
I could not believe how great these Caverns looked.  It was just as good to me as the Luray  Caverns that we visited last year in Virginia.

The Caverns were a nice 66 degrees and they stay that temperature even during our HOT Florida Summers.

Shark Tooth Coming out of cavern ceiling florida
Shark Tooth Coming Out of the Ceiling
At one point on the tour, the Ranger will shut off the lights to show how dark it is.  It was completely pitch black!  The Park Ranger was very informative and good with all our questions, especially the kids.  It was nice to see how the kids on the tour were fascinated by all the formations.

There are some sections on the tour where you have to bend over to get through.  (you had to walk bent over for a few moments).

Sections in which you had to bend over to get through

Thank you to the CCC Workers (Civilian Conservation Corps) and the Works Projects Administration who worked on this park and caverns under President Roosevelt's New Deal, to provide jobs to men during the Great Depression. They made this park and cavern into what it is today, so that it can be enjoyed by all.

CCC Worker Statue

Florida Caverns State Park is located at 3345 Caverns Road, Marianna, FL  32246.  The Caverns Tour is an extra charge plus park admission.  The park also offers camping, canoeing and fishing.  You can visit their website for prices and times.