The Natural Bridge
The modern park road (seen
here through the trees)
crosses the Natural Bridge.
Logging Passage
Loggers once opened a "cut"
or canal through the bridge so
they could float timber to a
downstream mill. - Florida Caverns State Park - Florida Caverns State Park
The Natural Bridge of the Chipola River
The Natural Bridge of the Chipola
This beautiful setting is where the Chipola River
sinks underground at Florida Caverns State Park.
Historic Crossing of the Chipola
Early explorers and settlers of Northwest
Florida were much more interested in the
Natural Bridge of the Chipola River, now
located in Florida Caverns State Park, than
they were in the adjacent caves that give the
park its name.

The Natural Bridge was an important
landmark in historic times because it
provided a place where travelers could cross
the Chipola with little difficulty, particularly
during the dry season.

A Native American trail used by the Chacato
Indians crossed the bridge and Spanish
missionaries and soldiers followed this path
in 1674 on their way to establish the
missions of San Nicolas and San Carlos
west of the Chipola.

A large Spanish military force crossed the
Natural Bridge in 1676 during a raid against
a fortified Chisca (Yuchi) village near the
Choctawhatchee River. It also provided a
crossing point for other Spanish parties in
1686 and 1693. One surviving journal of the
1693 expedition indicates that the river must
have been high, because the crossing was
muddy and difficult.

In 1818, Andrew Jackson's army crossed the
Natural Bridge of the Chipola during the First
Seminole War. Captain Hugh Young, a
topographer assigned to the army, wrote:

The Natural Bridge is in the center of a large
swamp and appears to be a deposit of earth
on a raft or some similar obstruction. The
passage is narrow and the creek, with a rapid
current is visible both above and below.

Captain Young was wrong, of course, about
the nature of the bridge. It actually is formed
by the unique karst topography of the area.
The river flows down into a sink, travels
under the ground for a short distance and
then rises back to the surface.
The Natural Bridge was used for a time as
an important crossing by early settlers of the
region, but fell into disuse because it was so
difficult to cross during times of high water.
Loggers eventually opened a cut or canal
across the bridge so they could float timber
to a downstream mill.

Today a canoe launch at the bridge provides
access to the beautiful upper Chipola River
and a historical marker that tells an
abbreviated version of Andrew Jackson's
Please click here to read more
about his march through the park.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.