What to do on a rainy weekend day in Tallahassee? This past weekend our family decided to escape the gray skies by heading underground. We drove about an hour and a half to our destination, Florida Caverns State Park, in Marianna, Florida. When we arrived we had a quick picnic while a few raindrops fell on us and then headed in to the gift shop to purchase our tickets for the cave tour. The tours leave every 30-45 minutes. We ended up with about 30 minutes to wait before our tour was to leave, which gave us just enough time to explore the indoor area with displays, information and a video about the park and the cave tour.
The kids played a few games and we watched the videos. We read the information posted to learn about the difference between a cave and a cavern, and what the various cave formation names were. Do you know the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite? We learned you can also fish, camp, canoe and enjoy the trails at the park. We learned about the animals that are home in this park, including the bats which we were told we may see in the cave during our tour.
We gathered with the rest of our tour group when the time had come for us to depart and shortly after, were met by our tour guide. He led us to the cave entrance, we heard some basic safety rules, and then we were off on our tour. As our guide explained the history of the formations we were seeing and told us about the geology of the cave system, we marveled at the sites before us. Our guide explained the different names for each “room” we entered. There was The Wedding Room, The Donald Duck Room and others … all named after one of the formations in the room.
There were moments of having to duck and turn and twist which added to the fun of the tour. The temperature was certainly comfortable inside the cave system. A nice and cool 65 degrees, compared to the hot and humid summer day outside. We were not permitted to touch the formations because that would actually stop their growth. Towards the end of the tour there was one touching post which we learned gave up it’s life for the sake of all other growing formations inside the cave system. It was wet and smooth feeling.
Among the safety rules explained to us at the start of the tour was about what to do if power was lost and the lights went out during the tour. Our guide explained that without the lights installed in the cave, we would be in complete and total darkness. At one point in the middle of the tour, after warning us what he was doing, our guide did in fact purposely turn off all of the lights and sure enough … you could not see your hand in front of your face. He also played a little joke on us all, which I won’t share the details of in case you ever get to go yourself. I’m still laughing when I think of it.
It was chilling to imagine those working in this cave system years ago, having to work with little to no light at times, while tied to a safety post near the exit, just in case. Our guide explained that he had done the tour so many times that he was familiar enough with it to find his way in the darkness. I can’t imagine. I think the fear would stop me in my tracks and even with light, I’d be lost trying to navigate my way when everything looks so similar.
After we exited the cavern, our guide told us that we could go right for a 15 minute walking trail through the park. We opted for this and had a great time enjoying the nature all around us and exploring the new area. A few raindrops were no problem under the canopy of all the huge, beautiful trees overhead. It was a great day, well worth the trip from Tallahassee and we’ll be back again.
Have you visited Florida Caverns State Park? What was your experience like?
About Florida Caverns State Park
Florida Caverns State Park is a 1300 acre sanctuary bordering both banks of the spring-fed Chipola River. This is one of the few state parks with dry (air-filled) caves and is the only state park in Florida to offer cave tours to the public. The cave has dazzling formations of limestone stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones and draperies. The Chipola River and a freshwater spring provide areas for fishing, canoeing (rentals available) and boating. Florida Caverns State Park is popular for camping, picnicking and horseback riding. The park also features a nine-hole, New Deal-era golf course set in beautiful rolling terrain. Annual special events include Spirits of the Caverns in October.
About the Cave Tour
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. The park’s bluffs, springs and caves are referred to as karst terrain, and the caves provide habitat for the blind cave crayfish, cave salamanders and three species of cave roosting bats.
Guided cave tours are offered Thursday through Monday except Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are NO cave tours on Tuesday and Wednesday. The tour lasts 35-40 minutes and is 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.
Please be aware our cave tours sometimes sell out. Call the Ranger Station at (850)482-1228 prior to departing for the park to ensure that all tours have not sold out for that day.
Location & Hours
$5.00 per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle.
$4.00 Single Occupant Vehicle.
$2.00 Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.
$8.00 per person, age 13 and older.
$5.00 per child, 3 to 12.
Free, 2 and younger.
$4.00 per person, organized groups of 25 or more with prepaid reservations.