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 Florida Caverns State Park...


Florida Caverns State Park
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00001178/00001
 Material Information
Title: Florida Caverns State Park a nature-made geologic wonderland ( FGS: Leaflet 10 )
Series Title: ( FGS: Leaflet 10 )
Physical Description: 16 p. : ill., maps ; 22 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Schmidt, Walter, 1950-
Florida -- Bureau of Geology
Publisher: Florida Bureau of Geology, Division of Resource Management, Florida Dept. of Natural Resources
Place of Publication: Tallahassee
Publication Date: 1982
Subjects / Keywords: Caves -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Geology -- Florida -- Jackson County   ( lcsh )
Florida Caverns State Park (Fla.)   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: Walter Schmidt.
General Note: Cover title.
General Note: "This leaflet is a revision of a pamphlet written in 1949 by Dr. Robert O. Vernon, of the Florida Geological Survey"--P. 2 of cover.
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management:
The author dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all of his or her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law and all related or neighboring legal rights he or she had in the work, to the extent allowable by law.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002564283
oclc - 38972886
notis - AMT0561
System ID: UF00001178:00001


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    Florida Caverns State Park...
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Full Text


[year of publication as printed] Florida Geological Survey [source text]

The Florida Geological Survey holds all rights to the source text of
this electronic resource on behalf of the State of Florida. The
Florida Geological Survey shall be considered the copyright holder
for the text of this publication.

Under the Statutes of the State of Florida (FS 257.05; 257.105, and
377.075), the Florida Geologic Survey (Tallahassee, FL), publisher of
the Florida Geologic Survey, as a division of state government,
makes its documents public (i.e., published) and extends to the
state's official agencies and libraries, including the University of
Florida's Smathers Libraries, rights of reproduction.

The Florida Geological Survey has made its publications available to
the University of Florida, on behalf of the State University System of
Florida, for the purpose of digitization and Internet distribution.

The Florida Geological Survey reserves all rights to its publications.
All uses, excluding those made under "fair use" provisions of U.S.
copyright legislation (U.S. Code, Title 17, Section 107), are
restricted. Contact the Florida Geological Survey for additional
information and permissions.

Lefalet No. 10

This leaflet is a revision:of a pamphlet written in 1949 by
Dr. Robert O. Vernon, of he Florida Geological Survey.

Prepared by the



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Walter Schmidt

Florida is truly a product of the sea,
since all the rocks composing its land were
formed directly on the ocean bottoms or by
streams emptying along the shores. From the
record of these rocks we know that Florida
has been alternately above and below the sea
many times in the geologic past. in fact,
the rocks visible in the park area and in
the caves at Florida Caverns, near Marianna,
Florida, were formed from the hard shells of
animals that lived in one of these seas. As
the animals died, their shells accumulated
on the sea bottoms, where they were covered
by other shells and hardened into thick
sequences of limestone.
These shells, called "fossils," are
remains representing cemeteries of the past,
Similar limestone has also formed in areas
that are today many miles removed from the
present seas, as in Iowa and other middle
western states, telling us where seas have
been in the past. Along much of Florida's
coastal marine areas at present, shells are
accumulating and forming limestone today.
How do we know that these limestones
were formed in the sea? As you go through

the caves at Florida Caverns, look closely
at the walls and you will be able to find
the shells of scallops and other clams. We
know these animals lived only in shallow
seas. The most common shells that you will
notice will be many small, coiled, flat
shells about the size of barley seed and
fiat thin disks about the size of dimes and
quarters. The animals that formed these
shells are known as Foraminifera and have
the tongue twisting names of Operculinoides
and Lepidocyclina. These particular animals
are extinct and are known only from rocks of
the geologic age from about 38 to 54 million
years ago. From their association with
other shells they are known to have lived in
shallow saltwater seas. By means of these
fossils the geologist is able to recognize
this particular limestone, from wherever it
may be found, which may be an outcrop or
rock samples from a well drilled many feet
below the ground surface, for these small
shells are recognizable even when the lime-
stone has been broken into fine fragments.
The limestone in which the caves of
Florida Caverns were carved is known, from
geologic studies made throughout the state,
to have been raised from the sea by land
movements after being formed, and then to
have been extensively eroded. It was again
submerged under the sea and other limestones
were deposited over the eroded surface.
These limestones subsequent-ly were raised
out of the -sea to be eroded. Over this
second eroded surface a deltaic deposit of
sand, clay and gravel was laid down by
streams that emptied into the Gulf of
The limestone that you will see in the
caves is known as the Ocala Group limestone,
named from deposits near Ocala, Florida.
Near Florida Caverns, limestones named the

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The Ocala Group limestone is exposed
throughout the park.

Suwannee Limestone and the Marianna Lime-
stone overlie the Ocala Group. These lime-
stones were named for deposits recognized
along the Suwannee River and at Marianna,
Florida. The sand, clay, and gravel over-
lying all of these limestones are not named
but are believed to be Miocene to Recent in
age, from 26 million years ago to present.
Part of this period is popularly known as
the "ice age."
Since emerging from the sea for the
last time, this part of Florida has been

constantly undergoing changes. The rocks
have been continuously attacked by elements
of the weather, and disintegrated where
exposed. Surface streams carry away much of
these products of weathering, but the work
of water under the ground is the major
factor in the creation of these caves and
the deposits in them. This underground
water, moving through the pores in the lime-
stone, has been and is now wearing away
portions of the land. These water channels
are isolated along fractures, bedding planes
and other structural weaknesses, or in
poorly consolidated rock. The water dis-
solves the limestone and carries it out into
surface streams and on to the sea. The
amount of this material being carried away
is illustrated at Silver Springs, one of the
State's larger springs, where each day about
541 tons of dissolved rock is carried away
in water. When it is realized that this is
only one of thousands of springs in Florida,
it is easy to understand the tremendous
amount of rock that is being dissolved each
day from beneath the ground, and just how
cavernous the rocks in Florida's subsurface
must be.

The administration building is built
of the native limestone.

Solution of Limestone

The rocks in which the caves of the
Florida Caverns State Park were formed are
limestone. This rock is composed prin-
cipally of the mineral calcite (calcium
carbonate). Limestone, as a rule, is
jointed vertically and bedded horizontally.
The permeability along these joints and
bedding planes provides relatively easy
avenues of travel for water. The primary
source of all of Florida's ground water is
rain. As rain falls, it combines with
carbon dioxide gas to form carbonic acid.
When the rain reaches the ground, humic
acids from rotting vegetation are added.
This acidic water is a common natural sol-
vent of limestone, and, as it soaks into
the ground and moves through the limestone
horizontally along bedding planes, it dis-
solves some of the rock. Thus, our cave
systems generally are developed horizontally
and parallel to the bedding planes. One
system of caves may lie above another, and
they may be connected by vertical tubes and
rooms. The ceilings of caverns may even-
tually reach so near to the surface that
they can no longer support the weight of the
surface deposits (largely sand in Florida),
whereupon collapse occurs into the cavern,
forming a sinkhole at the surface. A large
number of Florida's natural lakes, de-
pressions and ponds have been formed in
this way. These features range from small
pits, a few feet in diameter to large de-
pressions several miles wide. Many are per-
fectly round, others are highly irregular.
Some are coneshaped with rocky bottoms, some
have broadly developed flat bottoms and are
known as prairies. Still others are ver-
tical tubes, only a few inches in diameter

in some cases, that extend as much as one
hundred feet down into the limestones.
These are called "natural wells."

The rock formations take many
shapes. Here a column appears as a
wedding cake in the well-lighted
underground trail.

Land Movements in Florida

Have you ever thought how it is pos-
sible to walk through the dry caves of the
Florida Caverns Park when, in fact, the
caves were formed under water? That is,
they were formed beneath the land surface
where all the pore spaces and voids are
either occasionally or always filled with
water. We mentioned that this area has
alternately been beneath sea level and then
high and dry. We know that where rocks
which were formed under marine waters are
exposed on the land surface today it is
obvious that the land has been raised out of
the sea, or the sea has been lowered.
Let's examine how sea level may
fluctuate. Everyone has heard that ice
covers the North and South poles of the
earth, but few people realize that, if much
of this ice melted, the level of today's
seas would be much higher. Fossil evidence
preserved within the rocks tells geologists
that the sea once covered what is now the
entire state of Florida. Geologists believe
the major cause of these sealevel changes in
the Florida area is due to glacial and
interglacial fluctuations of worldwide
temperature. Considering the subtropical
climate of Florida, isn't it peculiar that
ice had so much to do in shaping our land
As a matter of record, all of the sur-
ficial deposits making up most of the land
surface of Florida were created and shaped
during the geologic past (one to ten million
years ago) when ice piled up on the poles
and moved down over lower latitudes in the
form of glaciers. The water forming these
glaciers came from ocean basins, which
subsequently lowered their water levels as

much as three to four hundred feet. As a
result of these lowered sea levels, much of
the continental shelves bordering the Gulf
and Atlantic were dry land, and streams
striving to empty into the lowered seas cut
their valleys much deeper. Ground water
circulated more rapidly and rocks through
which it passed were dissolved faster.
Later, as the polar ice melted, the sea
level rose to encroach upon the flanks of
the continent; streams became sluggish and
deposited sediment in their valleys to make
their floodplains. The sands, clay, and
gravel that make up the surface of most of
Florida represent former stream and river
deposits, and what were once the bottoms of
the Gulf and Atlantic, now raised out of
those seas.

Cave Deposits

In the preceding discussion we have
examined how caves are formed, largely in
rocks saturated with water, and how, by land
movements and changes of sea level, the
limestones in which the caves formed can be
moved above permanent water levels and
exposed to air. Now the process reverses--
it becomes possible to deposit rock in the
caves. As you go through the caves you will
notice that the walls are wet and that water
is oozing out of the pores of the rock.
Small drops of water emerging from the cave
walls evaporate and the calcite and other
rock minerals that the water held in
solution are deposited along the walls.
Where these drops cascade along the walls a
continuous elongated ridge is deposited. If

the water oozes out in an extremely fine
coating of water, the ;entire ceiling, walls,
and floor may be paved with calcite.
Where water drops tend to collect at
the same spot on the cave ceiling, a thin
strawlike deposit may be formed, after
which any remaining water may drop to the
cave floor where more calcite is deposited.
Continuous dripping results in paired de-
posits extending down from the ceiling and
up from the floor. The deposit on the
floor, called a stalagmite, is commonly
thicker and tapers much like an icicle.
Those hanging from the ceiling are called
stalactites. Where these two deposits are
joined they are known as a column.
These cave formations are mostly com-
posed of the mineral calcite, which forms
all limestone. Some of the deposits are
crystalline, and it is remarkable that as
calcite crystallizes from the many
individual drops of water it is arranged
always in a particular pattern to form
crystals. These crystal faces reflect light
and form the many unusual and beautiful
arrangements which you will see in a visit
to the caves.

Thin straw-like stalactites can be
seen on the cave ceiling.

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In time, with the addition of more
and more calcite, columns can become
quite thick.

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When water seeps from a crack, the
calcite left behind may form a
small ridge. Subsequent seepage and
evaporation adds additional de-
posits, forming a banded, sheet-like

: 1 1

Early History

Since early time, Florida Caverns has
created interest. They were first mentioned
in writings by Friar Barreda, who was with
the first overland expedition made by the
Spaniards to Pensacola Bay. The following
paragraph is a translation of the Friar's
own words, written 289 years ago:

"On June 12 (1693) we
continued northwest and
after we had journeyed a
little more than three
leagues. we reached an
abandoned village of the
Choctaw tribe called San
Nicholas where I came to
preach the holy gospel in the
year 1674. Here we spent the
night in the hollow of such a
beautiful and unusual rock
that I can state positively
that more than 200 men could
be lodged most comfortably in
it. Inside, there is a brook
which gushes from the living

Experts, who know how to read stories
told in the designs on Indian pottery, state
that the caves were known to the Indians of
this section long before the coming of the
Spaniards. There is considerable evidence
that Indians, even prior to 1693, had been
in the habit of using Florida Caverns and
caves in the vicinity for shelter during
their hunting trips into the region and for
refuge from their enemies. In some of the

smaller, dry caves there have been found
small, broken pieces of Indian pottery.
According to archeologists, all of the
sherds so far discovered are of a
post-Columbian type (prior to approximately
1500 AD). Ashes from fires, dead for many
years, flint arrowheads, and animal bones
have also been found in the caves.
Several times in history, Florida
Caverns a nature-made shelter was used
as a refuge from armed forces. During
Andrew Jackson's punitive expedition against
the Indians in 1818, a large band of Indians
escaped from his soldiers by concealing
themselves within the underground caves.
Again, during the Civil War, an outfit of
Union Soldiers en route to Pensacola was
resisted by a home guard unit from Marianna,
composed of men too young or too old to
fight in the armies of the Confederacy.
While the battle was raging, women, children
and slaves took refuge in Florida Caverns.
A clear spring, rising out of the
limestone, sends its lovely azure stream
down through the park over a mile before it
enters the Chipola River. The Chipola
Natural Bridge, located in the park, is a
fourth of a mile long and has been restored
to its original interesting geological
condition with the removal of logs and
lumber which had jammed into it in bygone
days when the river was used to float them
down to a mill.
Open the year round, Florida Caverns
State Park is comparable in interest to
Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, Mammoth Caves,
Kentucky, and Luray Caverns, Virginia.


Some geologic features you will see during
you tour of Florida Caverns State Park (see
map, page 17).
1. Caverns Entrance
Inside you will see cave formations
which include stalactites, stalag-
mites, sodastraws, columns, rim-
stone, flowstone, and draperies.
All are composed of the mineral
calcite, with colors ranging from
white to tannish-orange to black.
The colors are the result of im-
purities in the groundwater, such
as iron, and from the cave being
exposed to air over extended
periods of time.

2. Tunnel Cave
Here you will see a cave which has
been eroded out of the limestone.
The acidic groundwater has dis-
solved away the limestone by
following the horizontal bedding of
the rock. In addition, there is a
vertical joint or fracture which
runs the length of the cave. This
can be seen in the ceiling and at
both ends of the tunnel. The
intersection of this fracture with
a weakly cemented horizontal layer
probably formed a conduit for
ground water which was the cause of
the cave being formed here.

3. Flood Plain River Bluffs
In this area the trail follows the
steep limestone bluffs along the
Chipola River floodplain. These
bluffs were formed by floodwaters
eroding the bank of the river.

4. Exposed Limestone
All along the nature trails
throughout the park limestone is
exposed as weathered boulders and
in original position. This is the
Ocala Group limestone from the
Upper Eocene Series (deposited
approximately 40 million years

ago). If one looks closely at the
fresh or weathered outcrops,
numerous fossils of marine
organisms can be seen.

5. Natural Cave Openings
There are numerous natural cave
entrances visible along the trails.
Some of these are open to ex-
perienced spelunkers (cave ex-
plorers) with permission from the
Florida Division of Recreation and

6. Sinkholes
Numerous small sinkholes are pre-
sent throughout the park. Sink-
holes result when a cavern roof can
no longer support the weight of the
overlying sand and rock. The
"roof" and surface soil collapse
into the underground cavern.
Collapses are often triggered by
fluctuations of groundwater levels.

7. Natural bridge
The Chipola River disappears into a
swallow hole and reappears about
1500 feet to the southeast at the
river rise. This is a natural
feature common in limestone
terrains. (Note: A man-made ditch
was cut in the early 1900's to
float logs downstream).

8. Blue Hole Spring
This natural groundwater discharge
is the source of the Carters Mill
Branch, which flows as a tributary
into the Chipola River. The spring
water, which maintains a year-round
average temperature of 22.0 C
(71.6 OF), flows to the surface
from depths within the limestone.
It has been developed into a swim-
ming and picnic area. Because the
water is primarily attributed to
spring flow, it is generally clear,
except near the bottom where vege-
tation is prevalent, making the
water a murky brown. The spring
discharge has been measured at 56.8
cubic feet per second (36.6 million
gallons per day); this discharge
varies at different times of the
year in response to rainfall.

River Swamp




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