The Longdogs

The Longdogs
Willy, Harley (back center), and Gretchen

Florida Caverns State Park

Saturday morning we packed up the RV to go on another camping adventure, this time to Tyndall FamCamp; however, once we were just about ready to go, the sky turned dark in quite a few different directions.  A quick check on the Internet showed us that this was not just a Florida afternoon shower, we were in for rain for the next several days.  Now, we aren't wimps but we aren't crazy either, and the thought of being trapped inside the RV with a 5 and 7 year old plus 3 dogs was not real appealing.  So we quickly unpacked and came up with Plan B.  We decided to head to the Florida Caverns State Park.  If it rained, so what, we would be inside the caverns.  A short time later we were on the road for a one hour ride.

Florida Caverns State Park is a 1300-acre sanctuary bordering both banks of the spring-fed Chipola River.  While the primary attraction is the caverns, there is also a nice, shady camping area and the Blue Hole Spring swimming hole.  Humans have occupied the region for thousands of year.  Native American villages are known to have existed from the chert tools and pottery found in the caves and there were descriptions of local caves by Friar Barreda in 1693.  During the 1800s, caves in and around the park were used by Civil War refugess to hide from Union soldiers and by Seminole Indians to hide from Andrew Jackson during the Seminole wars.  The caverns and surrounding land were originally purchased for a private tourist attraction but were later transferred to become Florida's seventh state park.  The Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) labored from 1936 until the start of World War II to build the park's stone Visitor Center and other facilities.  This stature was erected in their honor.

This is the Visitor's Center which has an extensive display of maps, exhibits, historic artifacts and a video tour of the park and the caverns.

The tours enter through a locked door and lights are turned on and off as the tour group moves through the cavern to limit the effect of light on the structures.  There are stalagtites (hanging from the ceiling) and stalagmites (growing up from the ground).

These unique features look like drapes or pieces of bacon.

This feature is known as the wedding cake.

The ceiling was only 4 feet tall in several areas so Steve had to bend his 6'5" frame down quite a bit.  There were also a couple of narrow areas 24 inches wide but you could just step through.

This feature was fractured by earth movement.

This area was lit by colored lights for special effect.

One feature has been set aside so that visitors can touch it.  It is the only exception because the oil on people's skin stops the stalagtites and stalagmites from further growth.

By the way, it was pouring with rain when we entered the caverns but it didn't last too long so we were able to take a trip down this trail when we came out.

The woods look like a jungle as you go down the trail.

It was also quite rocky so you need to be fairly sure-footed before you head out.

 Hey, dad!  Look at this jungle vine.

This is a bat cave.  They put bars there to keep anyone or anything from bothering the bats as they are very important to the area.  They eat about 4 times their weight in bugs every night.

The groups poses as they leave an interesting tunnel.

I skipped the very last part of the trail to take one marked "short cut".

We weren't the only ones out on the trail.

Good thing I watched the video in the Visitor's Center before we did the cavern tour or I would not have known that this was poison ivy on a tree right next to the trail coming out at the parking lot.

All in all, it was a great day trip.  The park is near Marianna in the Florida panhandle.  The campground is quite nice with great level shady sites.and the caverns were interesting.

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