Friday, March 7, 2014

Falling Waters State Park, a profile

Sunrise is an excellent time for a hike at Falling Waters (or pretty much anywhere else) because the light is interesting for photos and there are fewer people on the trail. On this hike we didn't see anyone else in two hours even though the 25-site campground in the park was almost full.
Falling Waters State Park, at the highest elevation of Florida's state parks at a whopping 324', is lovely park in Florida's Panhandle about an hour west of Tallahassee and just a few miles south of I-10. It has 25 campsites, a swimming hole and the state's highest waterfall with a drop of 70' into a 100'-deep sinkhole. There are other sinkholes as well because of the karst topography where the rain water eats through the limestone bedrock. There's a good assortment of trees, shrubs, grasses and other understory plants. Well worth a visit.
 
The trail starts out through the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) and wiregrass (Aristida stricta var. beyrichiana) habitat, which the park maintains through controlled burns.

Early morning lake reflections.

The 2-acre dammed lake was built at the beginning of the park's history to control the flow of water over the waterfall. The overflow from the lake leads to one of the original feeder creeks to the waterfall. This way, it looks good on a year-round basis and not just during the wet season. They stocked the lake with fish and created this sandy beach to bring more people to the park.

The water was flowing, but we think that maybe the volume was turned down during the night when no one would see it and it hadn't been turned back up again. A rainy front had passed through over night so maybe the flow was affected by the extra volume.
But when you look into the gap the fall into this perfectly circular sinkhole is pretty spectacular.

There is a trail loop around some of the sinkholes in the area.
Beautiful southern maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris) decorate the walls of the sinkholes.

A magnolia root system at work trying to keep its topside upright.

Snags left over from a previous burn provide housing for a number of different birds.

Adams needle (Yucca filamentosa) dot the landscape.

Young longleaf pines are fire adapted with no lower branches and buds protected by a thick mat of hairs.
This is one of Florida's 170 state parks. Show your appreciation by visiting them on a regular basis. The number of visitors is an important metric when parks plead for state funding, so vote for parks with your money and as a bonus you'll keep you family in touch with "The Real Florida."

Photos and story by Ginny Stibolt.

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