PHOTO COURTESY VISIT FLORIDA
April 9, 2013
The star of this small but interesting park is a 67-foot waterfall -- the only waterfall in Florida -- that performs a disappearing act. The water tumbles into an unusual sinkhole: Unlike most limestone sinkholes, it isn't shaped like a funnel. Instead, the 20-foot-wide hole is so perfectly cylindrical that it appears manmade.
Curiously, no one knows where the water goes. Several years ago scientists dropped dye into the hole but were unable to trace its underground path.
An overlook platform that stands about 15 feet down in the sinkhole allows visitors a misty view of the waterfall from top to bottom.
Mosses and ferns cover much of the sinkhole, which is surrounded by forest. The temperature drops a couple of degrees during the short descent to the overlook. In a few steps you are transported millions of years into the past to a primeval Florida. Its earthy odor fills the nostrils.
Limestone forms Florida's skeletal system. In most places, the highly mineralized rock is well below the surface of the land. But in this part of the Panhandle the limestone is often exposed on the surface. A sinkhole forms when the limestone roof of a cavern collapses after being weakened by rainwater, which is slightly acidic.
Near the waterfall, a quarter-mile boardwalk takes visitors through a rocky land pocked with ancient sinkholes and caves. It is an up and down land: The sinkholes and caves pull your eyes downward, while the towering presence of hardwoods such as Southern magnolia, dogwood and white oak urges them upward in admiration.
-- Ken Clarke, Orlando Sentinel
INFO: Falling Waters State Park is in the panhandle, about three miles south of Chipley, off State Road 77A. Exit Interstate 10 at State Road 77, Chipley, and go south to 77A. Go east to the park entrance.
On the Web, go to www.floridastateparks.org/fallingwaters