Exploring Alien Worlds in the Florida Caverns
Above ground, you see no hint at the magical world that lies right below your feet at the Florida Caverns State Park. The area above is just your typical emerald colored Florida forest and rather unassuming. But what lies beneath is a real treasure. Chandeliers of limestone stalactites and soda straws hang from the cavern ceiling. Shimmering stalagmites jut up from the ground like petrified cypress knees. Elegant stone draperies look as if they were just rippling in a breeze but were unexpectedly frozen in time. Underground pools sit so incredibly still that they perfectly mimic dark sheet of glass. If you look up, you will see fossilized sea life, like shells and coral, immortalized in the limestone ceiling. Albino crawfish that have never felt the warmth of the sun bury themselves in the mud of shallow puddles and itty bitty bats duck and dodge through the rock formations using only echo location. It’s as if when descending the steps into the cool, humid caverns’ air, you are entering an alien planet. So goes a typical trip to the Florida Caverns.
Acquired by the state of Florida in 1935, Civilian Conservation Corps members worked tirelessly chiseling away at underground passages to make the caverns traversable. Ever since the park officially opened to the public in 1942, the Florida State Caverns has been enchanting visitors with its stunning geological formations. Before it was acquired by the state, individuals were breaking away pieces of the caverns to sell as souvenirs and were all but ruining them. The Florida Caverns State Park just goes to show how lucky the state of Florida and whole U.S. is to have a system that protects these amazing places from destruction and exploitation.
To take this fantastical trip through geological time, you will want to sign up for a cave tour at the park office gift shop. Tours are closed Tuesday and Wednesday and they often sell out so be sure you call the park office (850-482-1228) ahead of time to reserve a spot. For information on park fees, including cave tour costs, visit the state park site here. Other opportunities the Florida Caverns State Park presents is plentiful hiking, camping, picnicking and canoe rentals.