Travel Destinations: Underground Tour of The Florida Caverns State Park

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As the name would have it, Florida Caverns State Park is a location to view stalactites, stalagmites, and other cave characteristics, but it also features a mixture of natural plant families, involving one in which Appalachian Mountain species extend to their southernmost limitation. The park rests sixty-five miles northwesterly of Tallahassee, near the humble city of Marianna, the place of Jackson County. It enshrouds a two-square-mile portion that runs from 65 to 180 feet above sea level. Flowing through and through from north to south is the Chipola River, Choctaw for “sweetwater.”  The river is 80 feet wide in a few places, but it also goes deep down for about half a mile.

The park derived its geological characteristics from an intricate history. About 300 million years ago, two aboriginal superontinents, Gondwana and Laurasia— being the products of earlier tectonic movements themselves—clashed to forge a single landmass known as Pangaea. About 100 million years afterwards, Pangaea started to break apart, a fragment of the African continental plate stayed on tied to North America. That rock finally underlies what is now Florida and neighboring areas. Throughout the past 100 million years, the region was oftentimes covered by the ocean, which set down layers of corals, shells, and other carbonate deposits. Those deposits finally formed a tremendous thick layer of limestone tens thousand feet thick.

When formed, the limestone was exposed to the rhythm of sea-level variation. While the tide was high, acidic ground water chanced upon cracks and fissures in the soluble limestone, and gradually magnified those up residues in the form of columns, draperies, soda straws, rimstone pools, stalactites, and stalagmites. Visitors to the park could see such marvels by calling for a guided tour along a lighted footpath inside one cavern.

Numerous underground chambers recognized in the park aren’t part of the tour. A good example is Salamander Pond Cave, which holds a belowground pool 183 feet long, thirteen feet wide, and deeper than 8 feet. There are two rare cave species living in that aquatic cave, the Dougherty Plain crayfish and the Georgia blind salamander.

Geological activity has barely stopped in the region. The Chipola River goes on to erode the limestone; the River Sink is where the river vanishes about 100 feet underground before coming out downstream. Blue Hole Spring, a body of water about a hundred feet in diameter and thirty-nine feet deep, is supplied by an artesian spring, where water comes out under pressure at a range that has been measured out at 56.8 cubic feet per second. The overspill creates quaintly attractive Carter’s Mill Branch, which finally flows into the Chipola River.

The Chipola is known to be a small feeder of the Apalachicola River, which outflows up to the east of the park as a merging of the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers. The Chattahoochee has its headstreams in the mountains of northerly Georgia, and this link has available a pathway for plant organisms of the Appalachians to transmigrate into northern Florida. The park’s terrains, including the Bluff-Flood-plain Trail and the Beech Magnolia Trail, provide a cross-section of the flora. If you hike up in the park, be conscious that coral snakes, alligators, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, dusky pygmy rattlesnakes, and snapping turtles cohabit there as well.

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