This is one of the few Florida State Parks with dry (air-filled) caves and is the only state park in Florida to offer cave tours to the public. The Florida Cavern has dazzling formations of limestone stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones and draperies.
The land that comprises a large part of Florida Caverns State Park was acquired on October 11, 1935. Development began on the property before it was established as a state park. Work on the tour cave and structures within the park were completed by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Projects Administration. Both groups emerged from President Roosevelt's New Deal, established in 1933 to provide jobs to men during the Great Depression. Tireless hours of work went into the development of the park, which included many aspects beyond the cave. Progress continued on the park until 1942, when the United States joined World War II and funding was cut to the CCC and Works Progress Administration programs. Florida Caverns State Park was officially opened to the public in 1942 and the men who helped develop this park unquestionably left their mark. A walk around the 1,300-acre park reveals the remnants of a fish hatchery, a beautiful Visitor Center that houses the gift shop and museum, a 9-hole golf course and much more.
Interpretation is a large part of the Florida Park Service's goal to educate and preserve the natural and cultural aspects of each park. At Florida Caverns State Park, rangers have been interpreting features for more than 65 years. Visitors come across various types of interpretation - from brochures at the front office and signage on the trails to wild flower walks, bird walks and cave tours. Rangers are happy to provide programs on reptiles, archaeology, history of American Indians, prescribed burning and much more. These programs share the past and the present of the people of Florida and those specific to the area. The cave is a great opportunity for visitors to see the geology of the area. By exploring the subterranean system with a knowledgeable tour guide, visitors can see many cave formations such as soda straws, stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies and ribbons. The guide will explain how a cave is formed and how it changes gradually through time with water acting as its architect. Fossils are abundant within the cave system. The cave has a nautilus, shark tooth, tube coral, shells and fish vertebrae that are all visible while traversing the rooms at an average of 25 feet below the surface of the ground.
Cultural Resource Management within the Florida Park Service is more than just a job. As stewards of the land, staff is proud to preserve and protect these man-made resources. Within Florida Caverns State Park boundaries lie many cultural sites for visitors. Perhaps the one most seen is the Visitor Center, where the cave tour tickets are sold. The Visitor Center was started by the Civilian Conservation Corps members in 1935. Limestone was the chosen building material and much of the stone came from quarries in the park. The quarries are another cultural resource and known quarries are recorded and identified on the Florida Master Site File. Another cultural resource is the Fish Hatchery that was built by members of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The park also has the honor of preserving two two-story houses, a cottage and what once was a warehouse built by members of the WPA.
Archaeological discoveries of pottery sherds and mammoth footprints in several of the caverns predate European settlement in North America. But the site factors into Florida’s more recent history, too. In 1674, for example, Spanish missionary Friar Barreda allegedly delivered a Christian sermon amid the backdrop of the underground wonderland. Prevailing folklore also suggests a group of Seminoles trying to escape Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal expeditions of the early 19th century took refuge in the caverns.
PLAN YOUR VISIT
Guided tours of the Florida Cavern lasts 45 minutes and are considered to be moderately strenuous. An audiovisual program about touring the cave and other natural areas of the park is available in the visitor center. The attractive Visitor Center provides historical interpretation in its walk-through museum and large screen video tour of the caverns. The museum displays a large variety of exhibits offering cultural and natural resource information.
ADDRESS: 3345 Caverns Road, Marianna, FL 32446
HOURS: 8:00 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year
page information credit: Florida State Parks, Wikipedia, Florida Memory Project, Steve Beaudet, Merevin.com
photos from the sources listed above, as well as publicly posted online sites with thanks to the contributors