Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, Florida
Florida Caverns State Park
The "tunnel cave," seen here,
is located along one of the
nature trails in the park.
The beautiful river flows
underground at the park by
way of a natural bridge.
Florida Caverns State Park - Marianna, Florida
|Florida Caverns State Park
Some of the most beautiful scenery in Florida can
actually be found far removed from the sunshine
beneath the rolling hills of Jackson County.
Florida's Only Public Tour Cave
Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna is far
removed from the white sand beaches that
give Florida its fame, but is nevertheless a
place of remarkable beauty.
Much of Florida has a karst topography. This
is the term geologists use to mean the state
rests over layers of limestone and dolomite.
Over thousands of years, trickling water
slowly erodes away these strata, creating
caves and caverns.
Evidence of the state's karst topography can
be seen in its many springs and sinkholes,
but few possess the stunning natural beauty
of the massive tour cave at Florida Caverns
State Park. Easy to access from Interstate 10
and U.S. Highways 231 and 90, the park is a
Visitors to Florida Caverns can join park
service guides for walks down into the earth
for tours of the main cave. The underground
adventures are available five days per week
(no tours on Tuesday and Wednesday) and
last about 45 minutes.
Numerous other caves can be seen along
the nature trails and roads that leave through
the park. Most are not open to the public, but
the unique Tunnel Cave can be explored on
your own with a good flashlight. One of the
park's nature trails leads directly through it.
These caves have been a remarkable part of
Florida's history and prehistory. They have
been forming for thousands of years and
archaeologists have even discovered human
footprints and artifacts left behind by ancient
Indian hunters who passed through more
than 1,000 years ago.
The first written accounts date from the
1600s, when Spanish missionaries and
soldiers arrived to find the Chacato Indians
(often incorrectly confused with the Choctaw)
living around them. Friar Rodrigo de la
Barrancas described caves in the vicinity and
noted that Indian hunters often used them for
shelter while they were out in search of game.
A significant village site of this era, in fact,
was located where the Visitor Center parking
lot can be found today.
The Natural Bridge of the Chipola River is
located in the park and was a major Florida
landmark for many years. The earliest trails
followed by European explorers crossed the
river using the natural bridge. In 1818, during
the First Seminole War, Andrew Jackson led
an army of more than 1,000 men across the
bridge on his way from Fort Gadsden to
Pensacola. Legend says that Creek and
Seminole Indians hid from his troops in the
caves near the bridge.
During the antebellum era, the caves were
popular picnic spots for parties of young
people from Marianna. A local "Rip Van
Winkle" like legend even originated from the
caverns during this time period.
As the Civil War raged, Confederates
explored the caves as a possible source of
nitre for making gunpowder, but found them
too wet. It was not until the 1930s that their
true value to the Southern economy - tourism
- was realized.
Dr. J.C. Patterson of nearby Malone visited
Virginia's Luray Caverns and immediately
realized the potential of the caves. He bought
494 acres at the site in 1935 and led a civic
drive that called for the formation of today's
Dr. Patterson's dream was realized and the
Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.) soon
started work building many of the facilities
seen at the park today. These workers not
only built roads, trails and buildings, they
discovered the main cavern now used as the
Florida Caverns State Park today offers miles
of hiking trails, spectacular old growth trees,
archaeological sites and the Chipola River is
considered one of the finest canoe streams
in the South.
There are campsites, a historic
Depression-era golf course designed by
Robert Trent Jones, equestrian trails, picnic
areas and access to the Upper Chipola River
Water Management Area, a massive
preserve designed to help protect the water
resources of the Chipola.
Florida Caverns State Park is located at 3345
Caverns Road in Marianna, Florida. The park
is open 265 days a year from 8 a.m. until
sundown, however cave tours do not operate
on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Admission is $5 per vehicle ($4 if only one
person in the car). Cave tours are $8 per
person (13 and up), $5 per person (3-12).
Children 2 and under are admitted free.
Please click here to visit the official state park
website for more information.
Formations of the Caves
The main tour cave at Florida
Caverns State Park features
spectacular formations and
The Visitor Center at Florida
Caverns State Park provides
a variety of displays on the
history, archaeology and
geology of the park. It also is
the starting point for the
popular cave tours.
|Copyright 2012 & 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: March 2, 2014
Things to do at Florida Caverns