After coming across an article talking about new finds in Florida, particularly the discovery of a rare work of art, the oldest carving of a walking mammoth onto a fossil stone, discovered by a leading anthropologist in Vero Beach, it got me thinking about all the exploration I had not done here in my own home state. I’m usually so busy trying to get out of town that with the exception of Key West and Disney World, I thought I had Florida pretty much covered. I was wrong, and I was curious as to what else I could do besides hang out at the beach.
Camping really gives you a unique experience when exploring Florida state parks-staying in the park overnight allows you plenty of time to take the nature hikes and explore the trails properly. You can also make the most of the sunrises and sunsets and really capture wildlife while staying in the parks. Florida Caverns State Park is unique in the sense that it has the only cave that is still open to the public in the whole state of Florida. Unfortunately due to looting and vandalism the other 3 or 4 caves were permanently closed to the public to protect the natural habitat of the creatures that live inside of these caves.
The caves at Florida Caverns State park have an intriguing geologic history that began about 38 million years ago when sea levels were much higher and the southeastern coastal plain of the United States was submerged. Florida was underwater. 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. Sparkling stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone and other fragile cave-drip formations were created 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, although we only saw one little guy sleeping.
There is no touching anything in the caves, and although I read somewhere that there was no flash allowed, our guide didn’t say anything when the bulbs went off. Our guide was a retired postal worker from new England and he was very informative, having given cave tours for the last 7 years or so. He explained that the workers that were instrumental in creating the park were paid $1.00 an hour. They were also given a monthly allowance to send back to their families at home. At the end of the cave tour, which takes about 45 minutes, there was a place where we could touch a piece of rock. All of the oils and dirt that are in our skin get transferred to the rock and it actually stops it from growing. The cave goes about 50 feet down and at some points it drops to about 4 feet in height.
Reservations can only be made at the park, although group tours can be made in advance. The tours are offered every Thursday through Monday (closed on Tuesday and Wednesday) except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. These tours regularly sell out and the last tour leaves at 4pm.
To find information about the Florida Caverns State Park, click here.
We love caving- read about exploring caves in Thailand here!