Florida Mariana Caverns

Trees, stately giants beyond imagination. Rocks, boulders, and majestic mountains, living tapestries of light, shadow, and color. Streams, rivers, lakes, waterfalls; shimmering serenity, purity, and excitement. Endless, flowing plains; pathways to the sky. Flowers, leaves, needles, grasses, mosses; a kaleidoscope carpet. A billion snow diamonds, softer than baby feathers. Heavenly air; purified and sweetened by the birth, life, and death of beauty. What is the best alternative to the National and State parks in USA, to experience all of the above together? It is admirable how the national parks and state parks has stepped up to retain the natural beauty and to maintain the wilderness Mother Nature presents us with. From the Grand Canyons to Niagara falls to the redwood forests, nature is preserved to the extent that human beings can appreciate the beauty without painstaking hikes or treks. 

The same holds true for the small state park containing the Florida caverns. Normally, a cave that has stalactites and stalagmites in it, should be inaccessible for a common man. To view those splendid creations, one has to wear scuba gear or have expert hikers limbs generally. Thanks to the US National Park Service, we could watch and admire the formations deep inside the surface of the Earth in the Jackson county, Florida. The park is located in the northern Florida panhandle, near Mariana. Drive from Tallahassee took an hour and a half. It is located in the Central Time Zone of USA. Directions and location of the park can be found here. On a warm weekend in April, 2011, a group of eight ventured out to the Florida Caverns. The time difference between Tallahassee and the park made our drive look incredibly quick. 🙂

Stalactites

The entry fee is $5 per vehicle and $8 per person to enter the guided tour inside the caverns. Caves are generally unusual for the state and moreover, caverns with such formations are strange indeed. Stalactites and Stalagmites are formed inside the caverns with time when water filled with minerals dissolve local bedrock. Now Stalagmites are formed when mineralized water drips from the roof and calcium carbonate is deposited, forming a structure that rises from the floor vertically. Stalactites are the opposite of stalagmites and they hang from the roof vertically and are formed by dripping of mineralized water. When these two formations meet midway, they are called ‘columns’.

A bulky Stalagmite
Generously lit formations

The caves in here were pretty dark (as it should be), but the park authorities had installed lightings in such a way that they make the crowd lure towards specific features inside. Several types of formations, rather various types of combination were available for display. Some were tall and thick, some smaller ones, some combination of stalactites and stalagmites made it look like a bed of arrows or some kind of trap. Floor of the caverns were slippery and we saw water dripping from the roof, making the caverns ‘live’. Formations were still in the process of developing and more and more areas of the caves were yet to be discovered. Bats, rats and other geeky nocturnal animals. The caverns had several rooms and some rooms were much lower than others, making tourists bend down and walk several feet hunched over. The slippery floor and low roof along with pitch black darkness can make people wary. All in all, apart from watching the eye candies, e.g. stalactites, stalagmites and flowstones, inside the caverns were a good break from the scorching Florida sunshine.

Column Structures

Outside the cave, the park is equipped with camping and picnic areas. The scary wilderness can call for big hearted people in the dark. The eerie feeling just before sunset, the silence, the sound of wind flowing through open crevices, the soft light just before complete darkness felt so pure. The feeling of being alone in the middle of everyone was enough for me to be lost with myself. Thanks to my sweet soul mate to select the exotic location so nearby. It may not be a place worth visiting again, but for the open minded traveler who cannot afford to get into large underwater caverns to relinquish the serenity of the limestone monuments, Florida state caverns may prove to be the hidden gem. Back to Home

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