Sunday, July 8, 2012

Florida Caverns State Park

Today we went to visit the Florida Cavern State Park.  It is home to one of the only "tour caves" in the Florida.  To be honest, after being at Carlsbad, I was not expecting much.  Perhaps a small cave with one or two formation.  I was pleasantly surprised at what I got though.  The tour lasted ~45 minutes more or less, and we went through at least 6 "rooms".  In each was a wide array of formations, all the ones I love...  Columns, draperies, soda straws, etc. 

The waterfall room

Some draperies in the entrance room

The caves themselves were full of interesting reminders of Florida's geological history.  The ceilings in most of the rooms boosted tons of fossils; mostly clam shells, but our guide pointed out a shark tooth and a nautiliod shell.

Sea urchin test and clam shell on the cave ceilings

We also were lucky enough to see some cave life, including a bat.  After the cave tour there was still plenty to see, so we went off on one of the most recommended hikes, the flood plain/ tunnel trail.  It was interesting to see the different habitats in the area.  Just outside the cave exit, the cool cave air allowed for these liverworts and mosses the thrive.

A snail active at noon, made possible by cool air blowing out of the cave

There were pockets of limestone and mini cave openings everywhere, but the flatter parts (the flood plains) had all the hallmarks of a cypress swamp.  There were columbine plants everywhere, and I made a resolution to come back in the spring to see all the wildflowers blooming.  From the pictures in the visitor center, it looks amazing!

On the bluffs, it's all hardwood forest

There was also a lot of wildlife.   Being Florida, a lot of it was bugs.  We saw beetles, golden orb weaver spiders, golden silk spider (BIG), spiny orb weavers, and a new one for me, harvestman.  As a matter of fact, when I stopped to take a picture of a beetle, a cool-looking true bug landed on me.  There were tons of butterflies near the flower field in front of the visitor center.  I counted at least four different species in five minutes.


There was also some reptiles out and about, including a bunch of five-lined skink young.  There were a couple of adults out as well, but they aren't as colorful.

This little one caught a bug

All and all a must see stop in the North Florida region... Like most state parks, getting in is fairly reasonable, $5.00 for a car of up to 8.  The cave tour itself costs extra, but at $8.00 for an adult, it is still pretty modest.  I will be going back again, for sure!

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