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article imageReview: Inside the caves in Florida Special

By Kelly Jadon     Oct 5, 2013 in Travel
Tallahassee - About 45 minutes outside of Florida State University and the state capital of Tallahassee is the Florida Caverns State Park. This visitor location holds the only publicly accessible caves in the state.
Americans like the open road, where the RVs, campers and SUVs roll.
As gas prices continue to drop, and flying costs rise, Americans are returning to their family vacations on the road--stopping to visit friends and family along the way.
Florida boasts one of the largest tourist draws in the United States. Basking in the warm winter months of sun, surf and sand, the state welcomed more than 97.5 million tourists in 2012. Almost half drove to the state.
There are many sights worth seeing in Florida, but the best are those which are naturally occurring. These exist for generations to enjoy.
About 45 minutes outside of Florida State University, home of the Seminoles, and the state capital of Tallahassee is the Florida Caverns State Park. This visitor location holds the only publicly accessible caves in the state. Altogether, there are approximately 10 acres of caves.
Ages ago, much of Florida was covered by salt water. Limestone accumulated on the sea floor hundreds and even thousands of feet thick. The Florida caverns were created by receding levels of sea water leaving layers of bedrock limestone infused with fossils. Limestone is porous. The acid in the water eats away at it. This is an example of karst topography. "The limestone layer of the state is honeycombed with underground rivers. Where the rivers break through to the surface, springs and sinkholes are found. (USF: Exploring Florida)"
Florida Caverns State Park; Photo Credit: Kelly Jadon  2013
Florida Caverns State Park; Photo Credit: Kelly Jadon, 2013
When exploring the caves, one can easily view stalagmite, flow stone and stalactite formations. Animals living inside the caves are the endangered gray bat, blind salamanders and crayfish.
Florida Caverns State Park; Photo Credit: Kelly Jadon  2013
Florida Caverns State Park; Photo Credit: Kelly Jadon, 2013
Historically, caves have been natural sanctuaries of safety for humans, and the Florida caverns are no different. Deer bones and footprints left by Native Americans were found within by men from the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration. These workers were part of the New Deal by President Roosevelt (FDR) to put men back to work during the Great Depression (1933-1942). Inside the large main cavern they worked daily at making walkways suitable for visitors.
Other notable visitors to the caves have included Spanish missionaries (1600s), Seminoles in hiding during their wars, and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.
When visiting the caverns, take a guided 40-minute tour--tickets available at the visitors' center. The cost is minimal, as is entrance to the park. When hiking the caves, have available your camera and wear non-slip shoes. Bring older children. In preparation, read with them about what they will see before visiting. The visit will bring to life what they study in school books. A recommended humorous book is the recently published [i]Florida Authentica: Your field guide to the unique, eccentric, and natural marvels of the real Sunshine State[/i] by retired Palm Beach Post columnist Ron Wiggins. For a day trip, pack your cooler with lunch and water bottles.
Florida Caverns State Park; Photo Credit: Kelly Jadon  2013
Florida Caverns State Park; Photo Credit: Kelly Jadon, 2013
The outlying areas of Florida Caverns State Park include camping sites, miles of hiking trails, canoeing streams, and 600 species of flora, including spectacular old growth trees. Another CCC developed feature is a 9-hole golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones. There are also equestrian trails for horseback riding. For swimmers, there is the two-vent Blue Hole Spring.
A part of Florida's natural and cultural heritage, Florida Caverns State Park is well worth visiting.
Florida Caverns State Park
3345 Caverns Road
Marianna, FL 32446
Phone: (850) 482–9598
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