Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hiking the River Trail and Sink Trail

Footbridge over Blue Hole Spring-2Our first hike through Florida Caverns State Park was along the River and Sink Trails.  They are two independent trails, but they intersect in a couple of places, so we decided to explore both of them at the same time.  We started our trip from our campsite and headed towards Blue Hole Spring.

Running tree-2On the east side of the spring there is a forest of cypress trees that look like they would be perfect houses for hobbits or gnomes.  They all had big openings at the base, so I suspect that there are at least bats that hang out there.  One of the trees was interesting in another way – it was growing up the base of another tree and the dual trunks looked like a runner’s legs.

Blue Hole Spring Trail MapAfter a few photos back here, we were ready to head down Blue Hole Drive to the trail entrance.  This trail system meanders on the north side of the road, and covers a lot more area than the map on the web shows (at the ranger station, we did get a photo copied map that included the missing portions of the trails). River-Sink Trail entrance 2

We entered the trail just north of our campsite. The trails are wide and very well maintained, which is especially good here because there is a lot of poison ivy.  When I say “a lot”, I mean “a whole lot”.  Anywhere there was green, there was poison ivy to be seen.  I really recommend long pants while hiking up here, especially if going off-trail.

Sink hole near overlookShortly after entering the trail, we came upon what would be the first of several sinkholes.  This one still had some standing water in it, but most were pretty dry.  From here the trail meanders north and then loops back to the south for a bit before coming to an intersection.  Following the trail to the east from the intersection, we came upon the Chipola River Overlook.  Chipola river view

There is a bench at this spot on the river, which made a great spot to drop off some stuff while we wandered around the area taking a few photographs.  The low lying land around the river is full of cypress knees, with spots of color with Red Columbine Hiking through cyprus kneesblooming.  This is an interesting river, geologically speaking.  Just south of this point, the river goes underground, only to reemerge about a quarter of a mile further downstream. 

Otters-1From here the trail continues to the north along the river where we saw a couple of otters out for their morning swim.  At first I didn’t recognize what they were… they obviously weren’t alligators, their bodies curved as they swam but they were too short to be water snakes.  Finally, what I was looking at clicked in my mind.

Path along fence-2After watching the otters for a bit, we continued north where the trail leads to the northern border of the park.  On the north side of the fence is the Upper Chipola Water Management Area, which is also where the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail can be found.

Trail view through trees-2This section of the trail isn’t shown on the maps, but it is maintained and marked.  It leads to the western border of the park where it follows another fence to the south.  Soon the trail approaches another intersection that continues south, or leads to the east.  We headed to the east to see what we could find.

Sink hole overlook-2The path that we followed took us to the first intersection where we hiked to the east, so we took the trail back to the west from there.  This takes us to a sinkhole overlook that we missed when we started out.  It’s a nicely built deck that looks down into a sinkhole that is about 20 or 30 feet deep.

And that was our last spot to visit on this trail.  It was a good day for hiking, so after this hike, we hit the road to go visit the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail and Falling Waters State Park.  If you would like to see the technical details of this hike, as well as the full map, click on the “Trip details” link at the bottom of the map below the photos.

More Photos

Hobbit trees-2 Running tree-1Hobbit trees-4 Trail intersection
Chipola River Overlook signTrail view through trees-1 Upper Chipola WMA Chipola River view-1
Game trap-2 Sink hole from overlook-2 Red ColumbineWhere is Andy

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