Thursday, July 30, 2015

Visiting The Florida Caverns in Marianna, Florida

When we think of Florida we think of sunshine, white sunny beaches and palm trees.  So it may be surprising to learn about the Florida Caverns State Park.  And, it is interesting to know that these are the only caverns in Florida.

The Florida Caverns are located about three miles north of the little town of Marianna on State Highway 166.   

Driving west along Interstate-10 out of Tallahassee,  we arrived at the caverns in about an hour-and- ten minutes.  The Park is located about 60 miles from Tallahassee.

Years ago when our children were little we brought them here to the Caverns.  Now that we have  grandchildren we thought it would be fun to take them to see this interesting phenomenon also.

As we pulled into the parking lot we saw this sign indicating that the very parking lot where we parked was once the site of an Indian Village many many years ago

There is an entrance fee into the park of  $5.00 per vehicle.  There is an additional fee for touring the Caverns.  The tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for ages 3-12, and little folks under 2 were free.

This is an extremely popular tour ... We called to see if we could make reservations and were told they did not accept reservations.  Tickets are sold on a first come first serve basis.  They suggested we  arrive early around 9ish because the tours sold out early for the day.

It is also good to know that there are no tours of the Caverns on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The guided tours leave at the top of each hour.  Our guide, a Park Ranger,  met us and gave some preliminary information and instructions.  He told us the tour lasted about 45 minutes and that it is  considered moderately strenuous.  He also requested that there be no touching of the walls while down in the Cavern.

After walking along a trail for awhile we arrived at this long stairway 
going down down and down leading to the Cavern entrance.

It looked like a huge cave as we all gathered inside.  The tour begins about 60 feet below the surface.   Considering that it is Summertime in Florida and the outside temperatures are usually in the 90s it felt relatively chilly in the Cavern.  We were told the cave remains at 65 degrees all year long.

The passageways were well lit.  All of the rooms in the Caverns had the most interesting formations.

Yes, as seen in the below photo this is a passageway where you can walk through.

Our guide told us that these amazing formations have been part of a process that has been forming for over 38 million years.  Slowly over the hundreds and hundreds of years water dripped down from cracks in the ceiling creating stalactites and stalagmites, etc.    

We were told that archeologists have discovered human footprints and artifacts left behind by ancient Indian hunters who passed through more than 1,000 years ago.

Several times as we walked along on the tour,  we were asked to bend down and stay that way while we were walking,  in order to get through the tiny passageway.

I asked the guide to tell us how the Caverns were discovered.  He told us that the original entrance to the cave was discovered by accident.  

In March of 1937 a government surveyor found where a tree that had fallen over during a storm had exposed a new cavern.  The roots took up the earth with the tree and left a hole in the ground.  When he crawled into the hole he discovered the amazing formations that we see today.

The Caverns cover almost two acres.

After the caverns were discovered it was decided that the area would make for a wonderful tourist destination.  In 1937 they  began excavating and creating the paths visitors walk on today.

We were told there was evidence found that the Confederate soldiers 
 visited this area during the Civil War.

There are numerous other caves in the park that can be seen along the nature trails and roads through the park.  Most of the caves are not open to the public.  However, one of the parks nature trails leads directly through the unique Tunnel Cave and this cave can be  explored if you have a flashlight.

As we left the Caverns there was a steep walk back up toward the Gift Shop and to the parking lot.

There is a lot more to do in the park than tour the Caverns.  The park has 1300-acres and offers miles of hiking trails, campsites,  picnic areas,  equestrian trails, fishing, bicycling and there is a playground for the children.

Thanks for joining us today on the tour of The Florida Caverns.  If you are ever in the North Florida area,  driving along Interstate 10,  I hope you have time to tour this amazing area. 

Wishing you many blessings wherever you may be!

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