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Think there are no “real” caves in Florida? Think again – Florida Caverns State Park

As I was going back through my old photos I came across some shots from a camping trip my wife and I took to the Florida Caverns State Park. Even though this trip was back in 2011, I thought it was well worth a review. We chose this park because it seemed to have a lot of interesting activities that would justify the 4 hour and 45 minute drive from Orlando. After our visit we can definitely say it’s worth the trip.

Caves….in Florida?!?

As you probably expect, the caves are the main attraction of the park. There are guided tours that bring you down into the caves and explain everything. The caves are larger than you would expect considering they are located in North Florida. At an average depth of 25 feet below ground, they make for an exciting experience. During the tour you see stalactites and stalagmites all around you. The tour guides do a great job of explaining how the rock formations were made. As usual the tour included the moment when everyone turns off their lights to get the full effect of the darkness. That’s always a cool experience if you’ve never done it. My wife and I had a great time on the tour and it really made the trip.

History

As with most of the state parks in Florida, the tour cave and park facilities were developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The development spanned 7 years, from when the land was acquired in 1935 to when the park opened in 1942. The work would have continued after that, but in 1942 the United States entered World War II and the funding was cut to the CCC.

An unexpectedly cold night

On our first night at the park we set up our tent and got ready for bed. We had assumed it would be chilly since it was February in North Florida, but nothing to worry about. As it got later into the night the temperature dropped significantly. We were on an air mattress with sleeping bags and all our clothes on, but it wasn’t enough. I eventually took out the towels we had brought and laid them over us to get some more layers on. We shivered all through the night. When the morning came we decided we had to make a run out and pick up some kind of blanket. We found a Wal-mart and picked up a fleece blanket. Of course the following evening the temperature had risen and the extra blanket was no longer needed. If you’re planning on visiting this park in the winter don’t underestimate the cold. It may not snow, but it can definitely get chilly.

Canoeing down the Chipola River
Canoeing down the Chipola River

More than just caves

In addition to the caves the park offers activities from bicycling and hiking to canoeing and kayaking. The Chipola River runs through the center of the park and has access points along the way. My wife and I spent a relaxing few hours canoeing down the river. I tried my luck at fishing with little success. If you’re looking for a park with a lot of interesting things to do, you should check it out. It may be a little bit of a drive from Central Florida, but if you’re willing to make the drive it’s well worth it.

Have you been to the Florida Caverns State Park? If so, let me know what you thought in the comments. Also, while you’re here don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss out on any updates. Thanks and have fun out there!

Camping:

For reservations call (800) 326-3521 or book online.

  • Full Facility
    • Fees – $20 per night
    • Site include water and electricity
    • 35 sites available
  • Youth
    • Fees – $1 per youth and $5 per adult

Hiking:

  • The part includes 2 nature trails. Both trails are located around the visitor center area.
    • The trails are relatively short, but they’re a nice walk if you’re looking to see more of the park. While walking along one of the trails, my wife and I came across a fairly large paw print. We’re not entirely sure what type of cat it is, but I’m leaning towards Bobcat.  (UPDATE: Upon further review it looks like this is a dog paw print. Not as exciting, but a big print none the less. Thanks to Don for mentioning it in the comments!)
Paw print found while hiking
Paw print found while hiking

Other activities:

  • Bicycling
  • Fishing
  • Cavern Tours:
    • Fees:
      • $8 per person, ages 13 and up
      • $5 per child, ages 3 – 12
      • Free for 2 and younger
    • Tours are available Thursday through Monday
    • The tour lasts 45 minutes
    • Try to arrive early. The tours occassionally sell out.
  • Canoeing
    • Rentals are available for $15 for a half day (4 hours) or $20 for a full day.

General Info:

  • Admission Fee:
    • $5 per vehicle (2-8 people)
    • $4 single occupant vehicle
  • Address:
    • 3345 Caverns Road
    • Marianna, Florida 32446
  • Phone – (850) 482-9598
  • Hours – 8am until sundown, 365 days a year.
  • Park Map
  • Pet Policy – Pets are welcome at the park, but remember to keep them on a lease.

Resources:

4 thoughts on “Think there are no “real” caves in Florida? Think again – Florida Caverns State Park”

  1. The photo looks like a dog track. See — https://www.google.com/search?q=identify+bobcat+tracks&safe=off&hl=en&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=n1yTUpSvCcL_kAfU14CIAg&ved=0CGcQsAQ&biw=1428&bih=652 — for examples of bobcat and other tracks. Nice article. I have visited Florida Caverns and camped at Torreya State Park on the same trip. when I taught Earth Science at State College of Florida I always encouraged students who had never been to an actual cave to visit this park for a taste of the underworld.
    Don Hall
    I follow you on FB.

    1. Ah could have been a dog. Didn’t look exactly like a Bobcat, but seemed close. Decent sized dog at least. Nice, to hear you enjoyed the park and recommended it to your students. I haven’t been up to Torreya State Park just yet, but it’s on the list. Thanks for the comment and follow!

  2. WOW!!! I didn’t know these caves were here in our state and I have lived in Florida 55 years. We will definitely have to check this out. This is why I love reading your blog… Very interesting!! Thank you.

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