I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous waiting for my cave tour at Florida Caverns State Park. In the past, I have had bouts of claustrophobia, and I knew some parts of the cave were both short and narrow.
However, as I walked towards the tour meeting area I heard the glowing reflections of visitors who had just emerged from below ground, and knew I didn’t want to miss out. The park operates cave tours Thursday through Monday (except on Thanksgiving and Christmas), and each one lasts about 45 minutes. My husband and I waited with our group for our guide, a 17-year-old named Morgan, who has been leading cave tours since she was 16. I was impressed by her knowledge and enthusiasm, and am convinced it’s the coolest summer job any teenager could ask for.
I am so glad I didn’t skip the tour, for the cave is one of the coolest ecosystems I’ve ever experienced in Florida.
We walked slowly from room to room (the walk is about a half mile), marveling at the stalagmites, stalactites, unique formations, soda straws and more.
In some places, pools of water were so still they looked like glass, in others, curtain-like formations descending from the ceilings looked so much like one of my favorite breakfast foods that they are called “cave bacon” by the local staff.
During the tour, nature merged with history. The Civilian Conservation Corps originally worked to open the cave for visitors, but without modern lighting technology.
To increase the amount of light in the cave for their work, they plastered 130 porcelain plates to the ceiling to act as reflectors! Wherever we went, we were never far from the plates overhead.
Though we came for the cave, we spent an equal amount of time at Blue Hole Spring, also part of Florida Caverns State Park. We had about an hour and a half before our scheduled tour departed, and we desperately wanted to cool off.
Changing into our bathing suits in the bathroom near the spring, we quickly made our way across the grassy lawn to the swimming pier, and cannonballed straight in. The water was cool and refreshing, but I fell in love with the color most of all.
The blue was vibrant, with a green accent to it, but clear enough that we could easily see the outlines of fish and turtles sharing the swimming space with us.
When we emerged, we both felt tingly and energetic; it’s no surprise that early settlers often thought springs like these were Fountains of Youth!
See all the Firsthand Florida Fun blog posts here.
About Erika: Erika Z. is a writer, birder and photographer living and working along the Emerald Coast of Florida. Her love of the outdoors and sense of adventure leads her to explore Florida’s state parks, state trails and historic sites in her free time.