JACKSON CO., Fla. (WTXL) - Jackson county is about an hour drive from Tallahassee. With several Antebellum houses, it's no surprise it was the third established county before Florida achieved statehood in 1845.
"We are really known for our cultural heritage and our eco-tourism," says Pam Fuqua, the Executive Director of the Jackson County Tourist Development Council. "We have a lot of older homes here, we have a Civil War Battle of Marianna and for eco-tourism, we have a first magnitude spring, the Chipola River and Lake Seminole, so we have a lot of things to do.
The number one tourist attraction in Jackson County is the Florida Caverns State Park. The 1,300 acre property borders the Chipola River. While the park offers fishing, picnicking and camping, it's most popular attraction is its cave tours. In fact, the park has the only cave tours open to the public in Florida. Park Ranger Amanda Glover has been giving cavern tours for 11 years.
"Giving cavern tours, you greet people and bring them down to the cavern and show them the wonders of the history of Florida and how the aquifers are formed in the caverns and the beautiful formations and what they're called and how they grow and what kind of little creatures you can find in the caverns," said Glover.
Park Ranger Amanda Glover took us underground, and guided us through the half-mile long, 65-degree cave. It features spectacular cave formations such as stalactites, stalagmites and rim-stone pools, that are thousands of years old.
"It gives you something new to look at each and every time," said Glover, "even if it's a fossil you've never seen before, we'll most definitely try to point it out to the next group that comes through cause it's something different that you haven't seen."
The caverns were originally discovered in 1937 by a surveyor for the National Park Service who was checking out a tree that had fallen over during a storm. They called in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to explore the cave system and decide if it could be used as a tourist attraction. By 1942 it was open to the general public.
The cavern features several different rooms like the wedding room, the fracture room, the South America room, the enchanted forest, and the cathedral room. Over time, some of the formations have been given names due to their shape, like the wedding cake, Donald Duck and the cathedral.
Bats, low ceilings and all, it's definitely a learning experience and one exploration I'd do again. So good thing it takes less than a tank of gas from Tallahassee to get there.
Some films have been shot inside the cavern including including "Cobragator" and "Sharkansas: Women's Prison Massacre". That movie is set to be released in May of 2015.