Day one – Falling Waters State Park
Our first adventure began with a little change in scenery. We left the space coast and headed toward the northwest corner of the state where we stopped at Falling Waters State Park to camp for the night.
After driving for almost 8 hours, and crossing one time zone, we arrived shortly before 3 pm and found the campground almost full. There were three available sites to choose from and we grabbed site #20. It was a good site, but the parking was above the campsite so sleeping in the SUV was out of the question. This would be the first, and the last night that we slept in our tent on this trip.
Time to explore the park!
In 1962 the land was acquired by the Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials and later leased to the Florida Park Service who currently manages the park. It’s one of the more popular state parks in Florida and rightfully so!
The campground is a little open, but the bathrooms, dishwashing station and overall cleanliness of the park more than make up for the lack of privacy. Add your chances of spotting a deer, fox, or grey furred fox squirrel – yes that’s a real critter – and camping here gets you nearly as close to the Florida wild – minus the black bears – as one can get in a State Park. If night creatures are more your thing there are great horned owls and brown bats as well as a few unknown creatures that rustle the leaves when things go dark.
The easy nature trails take you through a wide range of biodiverse habitat which offers a full experience for nature lovers, photographers, and little explorers. Wet spongy mosses cling to the exposed limestone and carnivorous pitcher plants can be spotted by the careful eye. Did I mention terrestrial orchids, blue wiregrasses, and towering pines? The park is a marvelous patchwork of sinkholes, upland pine, & hardwood forest, but let’s not overlook it’s namesake!
Yes, waterfalls do exist in Florida. In fact, Falling Waters State Park is home to a 74′ waterfall. The intensity of the flow at the falls is closely tied to the amount of recent rainfall, so what is sometimes an unimpressive trickle, can turn into a beautiful cascade after a good rain. Now as if the waterfall is not cool enough on it’s own, the water drops into a 100-foot-deep x 20-foot-wide chimney sinkhole before disappearing into a subterranean cave system leaving you to wonder just where did all the water go. Magic!!
Additionally, the lands history is as diverse as the landscape and has just as much to offer for the historian as the nature explorer. Evidence shows as far back as 5000 years ago the land was inhabited by Native Americans. More recently, during the civil war period, the falls powered a nearby gristmill and in 1891 it was home to a legal whiskey distillery. By 1919 many thought there was oil in them there hills, but after drilling to a depth of 4912 feet no oil of good quality was found and the well was capped in 1921.
We really enjoyed the park and could have easily spent another day strolling the trails, taking photographs, and scouting wildlife. Maybe someday when we have grandkids they might enjoy taking a dip in the lake, chasing lizards, spotting turtles and listening to the owls at night as much as we did. Needless to say we’ll visit this state park many times again.
Next stop the Kisatchi National Forest. See you there!
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