Three Miles North Of Marianna

Topics: Cave, Limestone, Caving Pages: 2 (708 words) Published: February 4, 2015

Three miles north of Marianna, Florida Caverns State Park offers more outdoor recreational opportunities than any other place I know of in Florida.  What other spot do you know that has hiking, biking, camping, picnicking, horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking on rapids, boating, fishing, birdwatching, golfing, spring hunting, and, of course, spelunking? It is the caverns that give the state park its name.  Created during the Depression as a CCC project, the 1,300-acre park is honeycombed with caves large and small.  This un-Florida-like geological feature is the result of Florida’s limestone base bumping the tail end of the uplift that becomes the Appalachians.  And while the caves here do not match Mammoth Cave or Carlsbad Caverns, they nonetheless have an impressive array of stalagmites, stalactites, columns, flowstones, and other formations created over thousands of years by the steady drip of water. One large cave may be visited on guided tours.  The tour takes about 25 minutes, and the cavern is a constant temperature of 59 degrees.  Native Americans once used the caves for shelter and storage, and their history is told in the park’s informative museum.  The rest of the caves are off limits or even gated to protect fragile formations and colonies of endangered gray bats.  These shy insect-eating creatures are easily disturbed, but warmly welcomed by campers for the tons of mosquitoes they eat. Bats and insects are not the only residents in the park, which is a safe haven for alligators, deer, and beaver as well as home for a rich variety of birds, fish, and other wildlife.  Some have claimed sightings of the ivory-billed woodpecker in the area, although such are not confirmed and most believe this largest of all woodpeckers is now extinct.  But if the ivory-billed survived anywhere, it might be in these rich floodplains.  Gigantic beech, magnolia, sweet gum, and oak trees shade the lowland areas, and the understory flowers all year long with everything...
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