Thursday, June 4, 2009

An Interesting Early Account of Florida Caverns State Park

Marianna – One of the earliest recorded accounts of the caves within the limits of today’s Florida Caverns State Park was a description of the Natural Bridge Cave (now closed to the public) written in 1842 by the editor of the Tallahassee Floridian:

…Its entrance is on the side of a small hill, the mouth sufficiently large to admit two persons at a time in a standing posture. After furnishing ourselves with lighted candles we commenced our “exploring expedition.” A few steps led us into a large subterranean hall, of very irregular and curious structure. Its floor was quite uneven; and its roof thickly studded with glittering stalactites, forming a splendid arch, apparently supported by finely chiseled pillars of solid rock. After proceeding some distance, clambering over rocks, jumping ravines, now ascending land, anon descending, we at length reached a fine, cool spring, which gushed forth from a cleft in a large rock situated in a remote corner of the first apartment.

Unable to fathom that centuries of dripping water had hollowed out the cavern, the writer puzzled over what cataclysmic upheaval could have created the cave. He mentioned that local residents had explored a number of similar caverns in the area, including the Arch Cave west of the Chipola and the Rock Cave on the plantation of Dr. Samuel Bellamy.

After drinking cool water from the natural pool, the editor and his fellow explorers continued deeper into the cave:
…We pursued our uneven course into the net apartment, which presented much the appearance of the first. Having by this time become somewhat fatigued – the atmosphere being rather oppressive – we retraced our steps, and once more emerged into the light of day without meeting any accident. We think the position of the cave we explored was about 150 yards in length and ranging, in height, from 6 to 16 feet.

Such descriptions helped stimulate Florida’s first tourism industry, bringing visitors from across the country to Marianna to explore the caves and experience the beautiful scenery. Early accounts describe how visitors to Marianna were taken out to the natural bridge in wagons or carriages and given torchlight tours of the cavern. The process continues to this day, albeit in more modern form. If you would like to learn more about Florida Caverns State Park, please visit

Note: This article is excerpted from The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years by Dale Cox. The book is available in Marianna at Chipola River Book and Tea on Lafayette Street downtown or online at

No comments:

Post a Comment