SoWal Daytrip To Florida Caverns State Park
November 28, 2016 by SoWal Staff
Most people are astonished to learn that Florida has caves, but the limestone ecosystem of the central Florida panhandle is quite different than anywhere else in the state.
At Florida Caverns State Park, massive hardwood forests shelter a fascinating landscape of natural springs, rivers that disappear underground and re-appear miles away, plant-covered rock, caves large enough to explore, and many more mysterious caves with millions of bats!
Florida Caverns State Park is about an hour and a half northeast of SoWal just north of I-10 in Marianna, Florida (click for more info & map). One of the few state parks with dry (air filled) caves and the only Florida state park to offer cave tours to the public (check tour schedule before visiting).
Cave tour lasts approximately 45 minutes and are considered to be moderately strenuous. An audiovisual program, touring the cave and other natural areas of the park, is available in the visitor center.
The cave has dazzling formations of limestone stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones and draperies. Florida Caverns is also popular for camping, swimming, fishing, picnicking, canoeing, boating, hiking, bicycling and horseback riding. Though the park does not rent horses, stables are available for equestrian campers.
Horseback riding, bicycling, and walking are just some ways to view the beautiful scenery of Florida Caverns State Park. Tour several miles of multi-use trails while viewing natural wonders such as floodplains, sinkholes, rivers and Karst topography. View a wide variety of plants and animals as you journey through these unchanged natural areas. A trail map is available at the designated entrances to these trails as well as the ranger station.
The Upper Chipola Recreational Trail system has been established through a cooperative effort between Northwest Florida Water Management District and Florida Caverns State Park. Volunteers and staff maintain the trails and invite you to ride horses, bicycle, and walk while enjoying the Real Florida. Please remember that flowers are for everyone, insects bite, trails have wet areas and moving water is dangerous!
A boat ramp is located between the park entrance station and the family camping area. Only small boats are recommended to launch from this area due to water levels and possible underwater hazards along the Chipola River. Boaters can take a leisurely tour along the river and can also fish and view a variety of wildlife. Traveling south under the bridge at the boat ramp is not recommended.
This 1,319-acre park has 35 campsites with electric and water hookups available for RV and tent camping. Three sites are RV/trailer only and three sites are tent-only. There are stables for visitors who bring their horses by three of the RV/tent sites. Pets are welcome.
Fishing is available at the boat ramp located on Blue Hole Drive. A variety of fish such as Bass, Catfish, Sunfish, Mullet, etc. can be caught from this area. A unique river sink is located here, where the Chipola River sinks 90 feet below the surface and finally reappears ½-mile downstream. Prior to the early 1900s a ½-mile natural land bridge existed where the Chipola River disappeared into a sinkhole. Evidently at that time a " log run" was created across the natural land bridge for the purpose of floating felled timber downstream to a nearby sawmill. Please be sure to know your limits and follow all rules and regulations while fishing at Florida Caverns State Park.
The park offers two nature trails that allow you to explore the beautiful rocky bluffs that tower above the river floodplain. Both trails start at the Visitor Center. The terrain is steep in places and considered mildly strenuous. Because the bluffs are such a unique environment many rare species of plants can be seen. The trails are for foot traffic only.
An Equestrian Facility is Located in the center of the multiuse trail system. Horseback riders can enjoy the use of stables. A wash rack is located directly behind these stables to clean and cool the horses after a hard day's work. Restrooms and picnic shelters are also nearby for your convenience. Equestrian camping is available.
Located near the campground, the Blue Hole Spring rises to create the Blue Hole swimming area. This favorite warm weather attraction provides a great way to cool down during the hot summer months. The spring water is usually clear during periods of low rainfall. A floating dock extends out over the spring vent to provide bathers access to the swimming area. Two bridges on the North & South ends of the swimming area are good locations to view wildlife and enjoy the surrounding scenery. The spring vent has been measured at 97 feet deep and during periods of heavy rain; flood waters may rise more than 10 feet above normal levels.