|Summary of Features|
Located in Florida Caverns State Park 2.6 miles north of Marianna.From the center of town on U.S. 90, turn right onto Jefferson Street andproceed to the State Park entrance. Within the park, the spring is at theend of the paved road (about 2.5 miles) on the left and clearly sign-posted.
For maps, latitude/longitude data, driving directions, satellite imagery,and topographic representations as well as weather conditions at this spring,go to Greg Johnson's informative "Florida Springs Database" web site atthe following address: http://www.ThisWaytothe.Net/springs/floridasprings.htm#Florida
The spring lies in a varied geologic area of hills, hardwood forest,floodplain, exposed limestone, caverns, springs, and the Chipola River,which sinks and rises within the park’s boundaries. Perhaps partially fedby the Chipola River, Blue Hole has two pools. The large pool has beenmade into a swimming area and is 100-140 feet by about 200 feet. The springlies in the upstream end of the pool and is semicircular. According toRosenau et al. (1977, p. 178), its depth is up to 26 feet. Fallen treesand milky blue water obscure the vent and water depth; the pool is populatedwith fish and turtles.
The lower end of the pool serves as a swim area and is about 150 feetin diameter with a beach on one side, a low dive platform on the other,and an arched wooden footbridge over the run which exits to the SE. There are bathrooms and picnic and playground facilities. The upperand lower ends of the pool combine to form a rough figure 8 shape. To the NW of the spring pool, beyond the smaller footbridge, is a smallpool that has no surface flow and is filled with logs and limbs. It looks like a sinkhole and is likely connected to the large pool a fewfeet away. A t the downstream bridge, the pool narrows to about 30 feetwide and forms a canopied run that flows into Carter's Mill Branch, whichin turn flows into the Chipola about 1.2 miles SE. Trails behindthe spring follow the run. Fish, otters, and snakes may be seen in therun.
Because the water in the spring is not quite clear, it may be that theflow is a combination of filtered water and water from the Chipola River,which flows underground nearby.
The park rents canoes at reasonable rates, but they must be returned beforethe park closes. Check with the rangers for times and costs. Cavern tours are very popular and should be reserved in advance on summerweekends. There are several miles of horse trails in the park; you must provide your own mount. A state golf course adjoins the park—it is the only one of its kind inthe state system. There are no lifeguards at Blue Hole Spring, but the water is not deep. The park also offers camping and hiking. The park has one of the best trails in Florida, skirting caverns and thefloodplain forest to reveal tunnels, caves, dramatic (for Florida) ledgesand outcrops, and rare virgin forest with immense beech, magnolia, andother trees. The trail is accessed from the back end of the parking lotfor the park museum/cave tour entrance.
Development, in the form of the golf course and upscale homes, bracketsthe park. There is rich evidence of Indian habitation in and around the caverns;the park museum has good displays and a video on the park and its history. The park was developed during the 1930s as a CCC project, with men enlargingthe passages through the main cavern. The CCC effort ceased when the U.S. entered WWII. The swim and picnic areaat Blue Hole was developed in the late 1960s.
Florida Caverns State Park
3345 Caverns Road
Marianna, FL 32446
An Essay on Florida Caverns State Park
Three miles north of Marianna, Florida Caverns State Park offers moreoutdoor 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 duringthe Depression as a CCC project, the 1,300-acre park is honeycombed withcaves large and small. This un-Florida-like geological feature is the resultof Florida’s limestone base bumping the tail end of the uplift that becomesthe Appalachians. And while the caves here do not match Mammoth Cave orCarlsbad Caverns, they nonetheless have an impressive array of stalagmites,stalactites, columns, flowstones, and other formations created over thousandsof years by the steady drip of water.
One large cave may be visited on guided tours. The tour takes about25 minutes, and the cavern is a constant temperature of 59 degrees. NativeAmericans once used the caves for shelter and storage, and their historyis told in the park’s informative museum. The rest of the caves are offlimits or even gated to protect fragile formations and colonies of endangeredgray 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 asafe haven for alligators, deer, and beaver as well as home for a richvariety of birds, fish, and other wildlife. Some have claimed sightingsof the ivory-billed woodpecker in the area, although such are not confirmedand most believe this largest of all woodpeckers is now extinct. But ifthe 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 from columbine,native azalea, and sage to leafcups, bottlebrush, and the lovely January-bloomingatamasco lily.
The river floodplain trail is the best way to see the many faces ofthe area. In 30 minutes, you will go through natural tunnels, climb boulders,see virgin forest and some of the largest trees in the state, and be ableto peek into several caves. The horse trails may also be hiked and loopalong spring runs and through deep forest. Riders must provide their ownhorses.
The Chipola River bisects the park from north to south and is joinedwithin it by two spring runs. In the middle of the park, the river dipsbelow ground for more than 1,000 yards before reappearing. A century ago,a channel was cut across the natural bridge so logs co uld be floated downstream.The ditch is narrow, fast, obstructed, and not recommended for the inexperiencedpaddler. Fed by rainwater and springs, the Chipola can be very clear andis an easy paddle upstream or down. Alligators bask in the few sunny spots,discouraging river swimming.
Even so, there is a great spring group about a mile upstream of theboat ramp. Called Bozell, the main spring has a clear shallow run fromthe east and leads to a lovely spring pool that strongly invites a dip,even a skinny dip when no one is around. Three more springs line the banksjust below and above Bozell, and the park is a popular pull-out for overnightand weekend canoers.
The official swimming area is yet another spring called Blue Hole. Thespring forms three pools, one of which has a nice beach and dive platform.The water in the main spring is a deep, milky blue and its 68 degrees arevery refreshing on a hot summer day.
The Florida Caverns Golf Course is adjacent to the park and is a separateconcession. Park fees are $3.25 per car, and there are additional, if reasonable,charges for cavern tours, canoe rentals, camping, horseback riding, andgolfing. The cavern tours are very popular, so call ahead if you plan aweekend visit. Development is increasing around the park, but once insideyou can explore the glories of natural Florida in greater variety thanjust about anywhere.
Having done everything but golfing and horseback riding at the park,JF attests that it is one of the best overall recreation sites in northFlorida. Although hemmed in by development, the park has a very undevelopedcharacter and the river is very primitive
Other Nearby Natural Features
Bosel (or Bozell) Springs group Merritt’s Mill Pond Springs (Blue, Shangri-La, Twin Caves, Indian Washtub,Gator) Sandbag Spring Spring Lake Springs (Black, Double, Gadsen [or Gadsden], Millpond, Springboard)
Three Rivers State Park
Falling Water State Park
Torreya State Park
Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve
Florida Caverns State Park
3345 Caverns Road
Marianna, FL 32446