Cavern Tours are offered seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Cavern tour tickets are offered on a first-come, first-served basis and may be purchased in person at the Florida Caverns Gift Shop from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST on the day of arrival. Visitors are encouraged to arrive early as tours sometimes sell out, especially on weekends and holidays.
During the last million years, acidic groundwater dissolved crevices just below the surface creating cave passages large enough to walk through. This is one of the few places in Florida with dry, air-filled caves and is the only state park in Florida to offer cave tours to the public. Florida Caverns State Park was officially opened to the public in 1942. The Florida Cavern has dazzling formations of limestone stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones and draperies.
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, Spanish missionary Friar Barreda, allegedly delivered a Catholic sermon or mass amid the backdrop of the underground wonderland. Some folklore also suggests a group of Seminoles trying to escape Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal took refuge in the caverns in the 1830s.
The park's caves have a long and interesting geologic history beginning about 38 million years ago when sea levels were much higher and the southeastern coastal plain of the United States was submerged. Shells, coral and sediments gradually accumulated on the sea floor. As sea levels fell, these materials hardened into limestone. During the last million years, acidic groundwater dissolved crevices just below the surface creating cave passages large enough to walk through.
Dazzling stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone and other fragile cave-drip formations were by a similar dissolving process by the naturally acidic rainwater. In many rooms and hallways, the stalactites and stalagmites have joined to form full columns. Glistening draperies, soda straws, and ribbons complement the proliferation of stalactites and stalagmites, creating a distinct living environment for the cave-dwelling flora and fauna.
page information credit: Florida State Parks, Florida Memory Project,
photos from the sources listed above, as well as publicly posted online sites with thanks to the contributors