Saturday, March 2, 2013

Florida Caverns State Park

The rig, all alone, in the equestrian park lights, no noise.
Our return to Oklahoma couldn’t have been timed better. We were only a day ahead of tornadoes, rain, and cold temperatures. The cold front ahead of the storms made it too cold for Jean’s tropical birds, so while we spent a night in a Walmart parking lot near Marianna, Florida, on the way south, we needed a campground with electricity on the return trip. We stopped at Florida Caverns State Park just north of I-10 at Marianna. (3345 Caverns Rd., Marianna, FL 32446 (850)482-9598) It is a small park. I asked if we could get a campsite that was remote and quiet. There is an equestrian camping area, and there was not a single horse or rider there, so we had the stable area all to ourselves. Nice!

It is possible to paddle a short segment of the Chipola River for about an hour.
The launch is just upstream from where the river disappears into underground caverns.
Native American villages occupied the area for thousands of years. The caves, described in the writings of Friar Barreda in 1693, had been used by the indigenous peoples for shelter, burials, and for clay gathering. They were also used for concealment so the Confederates could hide from Union forces during the Civil War, and so the Seminoles could hide from Andrew Jackson during the Seminole wars. The lands became Florida’s seventh state park, and the Civilian Conservation Corps labored from 1936 until the beginning of the Second World War to build the facilities here. Besides constructing buildings and clearing land, they removed tons of rock and installed lighting so visitors could tour the caves.

The other end of the paddle trail runs into the 'blue hole', where
swimming is permitted during the summer.  A wooden arched
walkway spans the blue hole.
The park sits on the Upper Chipola River. Chipola means ‘sweet’ water in the Choctaw language. There are two river channels. Part of the river runs underground through caverns, and when the water levels are higher, it flows through a man-made channel that was used during the 1800’s to float logs downstream.

The Chipola River remains much the same as when paddled
by Native Americans.
This chameleon says he likes the color of this canoe just fine.
As settlers continued to push west after 1800, there were frequent skirmishes back and forth across the border between the U.S. and what was still Spanish territory. These included raids to capture escaped slaves, attacks against Indians that were concealing slaves, raids to capture Indians and sell them into slavery, and reprisals against landowners north of the border. The latter motivated Gen. Andrew Jackson to lead a campaign against the Seminole Indians in 1818. His forces marched across the Chipola natural bridge on May 11, 1818, during a 12-day march between Fort Gadsden on the Apalachicola River to the Escambia River. While they destroyed the Seminole stronghold in the Apalachee region, this military foray into Spanish territory caused problems for the U.S. both at home and abroad, but paved the way for later acquisition of Florida from Spain.

The Chipola is a small stream that can become big, as shown by this "1975 High
Water Marker" shows, which is about 3-ft. above the top of this RV.
The romance is gone.  I heard Jean say, "Look at this big bunch of mistletoe."
"Oh yeah," I said as I rushed over and gave her a kiss.  She looked at me and said,
"No, I just wanted you to get a picture of this huge bunch of mistletoe."
What Florida means...wildflowers everywhere.



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