By Alysia Spivey, Public Affairs InternJuly 14, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- About an hour and a half drive south of Fort Rucker is one of the Florida panhandle's most popular tourist attractions, Florida Caverns State Park.
Located 3 miles north of Marianna, Florida, on State Road 166, the state park offers a wide range of activities and outdoor sports. According to Billy Bailey, Park Services specialist, visitors can spend the day hiking, canoeing, fishing, swimming, picnicking, touring the Florida Caverns and more.
People can spend the day fishing on the Chipola River, which features an array of fish species such as catfish, bass, sunfish and mullet, or take a trip upriver and observe the natural scenery of the area. Six picnic areas, with tables and grills, are also available to guests, Bailey added.
The Florida Caverns are likely the biggest draw to the park, Bailey said. "We have about 120,000 visitors come to the park a year and around half of them come to see the caverns."
According to the park's website, visitors can view several types of cave formations, including stalagmites, stalactites, columns, draperies and ribbons. Visitors can also catch a glimpse of fossilized shark teeth, coral, shells and fish vertebrae while touring the cave system.
When it comes to attire, Bailey said, "It's a cool 65 degrees year-round in the caves, but most people are fine in a normal T-shirt. However, we recommend wearing close-toed shoes because the [cave] floors can be slippery."
The trip underground is considered moderately strenuous and visitors can expect to spend around 45 minutes in the caves. Tours are offered Thursdays through Mondays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours cost $8 for ages 13 and older, $5 for children ages 3-12, and free admission is given to children 2 and under.
Those coming to experience the caves are advised to call ahead of their departure and ensure that tickets will be available, as tours sell out on occasion, Bailey said.
The park is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. until sundown. Park admission is charged per vehicle -- $5 for multiple occupant vehicles and $4 for single occupant vehicles. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent and camping comes with a $20 per night fee, which includes water and electricity. An annual park pass is offered at a 25-percent discount to veterans.
For more information, visit Florida Caverns State Park's website at www.floridastateparks.org/park/Florida-Caverns, or call 850-482-1228.