History of Florida Caverns

CCC commemorative marker

CCC commemorative marker

Florida Caverns State Park came into the Florida Park System in 1935, when the CCC installed Florida State Park #6 on the site. At this time the CCC and WPA were constructing the park facilities and roadways. The original entrance to the cave was actually discovered by accident. In March of 1937 a government surveyor, Oliver Chalifeaux, found where a tree that had fallen over during a storm had exposed a new cavern. The roots took up the earth with the tree and left a hole in the ground. When he crawled into the hole he discovered the beautiful formations that we see today. After this discovery, the CCC continued the excavation and

Monument to the CCC workers who built the park.

Monument to the CCC workers who built the park.

development of the tour cave that lasted to 1942. The tour cave, covering an area of nearly 2 acres under the park, has been open for public enjoyment since 1942. (Source: Wildernet.com)

The CCC excavated the cave using only pickaxes and hand tools, for almost five years, creating the paths that visitors walk today. Most of the caves then were only a few feet tall. This gives us an idea of what the caves were like for the CCC workers… and we can see how much they had to dig out to make the pathways we enjoy today.

The workers were paid a dollar a day, which was actually a good wage at the time. Since those were the days after the Great Depression, most of the workers sent 75 cents of those dollars back home to feed their families.

The beauty of the Florida Caverns is not viewed across a large room as in some caves, but it is right beside you where you can see the detail.

Limestone is composed of fossilized seashells and marine life that accumulated on the sea floor. At one time all of Florida was covered by a shallow sea. As the land arched higher and this area became high and dry the limestone became exposed so that we can actually walk through the caves that were created by water, part of a process that started 38 million years ago.

Florida Park Service emblem - Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Florida Park Service – Florida Department of Environmental Protection

The southeastern coastal plain of the United States was submerged below the ocean. Shells, coral and sediments gradually accumulated on the sea floor. As sea levels receded, these minerals hardened into limestone. Over the last million years, naturally acidic rainfall and groundwater dissolved in crevices just below the surface creating cave passages.