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Sinkholes, gushing waterfall are highlights at Florida state park

A platform at Falling Waters State Park near Chipley, puts visitors next to Florida's tallest waterfall.
Published Aug. 27, 2013

Rainfall is appreciated at Falling Waters State Park. It makes the park's trademark waterfall gush.

Falling Waters, a 173-acre park in the Northwest Florida's Holmes County, was established in 1962 and opened in 1963. It is of one the jewels of the state park system because of its waterfall.

Lots of rain and a high water table make for an ideal time to take some amazing photographs of the 73-foot falls and its rainbow as the water flows into the mouth of a 100-foot deep, 20-foot wide cylindrical sinkhole, then disappears into a cave at the bottom.

"We certainly have one of the prettiest parks in the state,'' said Jacob Strickland, Falling Waters park manager. "There is a lot to see here. And you can get a real workout on the hilly trails.''

So, we take you on a trip through Falling Waters and its Top 6 things to experience.

1. Of course, it is the waterfall

It can be heard from 100 yards away. The Wire Grass boardwalk trail takes visitors to it. The trail descends to a spot where one can feel the mist off the water. There is also a higher platform for those who don't want to get that close to the falls and sinkhole.

"This waterfall is incredible,'' said Mike Strait, a Beaumont, Texas, resident and camper at Falling Waters with his wife and daughter. "It makes you want to pull up a lawn chair and just sit down and watch and meditate about the wonders of Mother Nature.''

"The falls get water from sources north, south, east and west in the park,'' said Strickland. "Our lake is full so the overflow from it has greatly contributed.''

2. The sinkholes

Twelve huge limestone holes pock the earth at Falling Waters. The Wire Grass Trail meanders around most of them to enable the best view of these deep natural phenomena. Fern plants seem to enjoy their company. The sinkholes are estimated to be more than 20 million years old.

"People come here for the waterfall, but they often leave talking about our sinkholes,'' Strickland said. "Most people know sinkholes as road pavement or backyards caving in. At Falling Waters, you get to see what real sinkholes look like. The awesomeness of them can take your breath away.''

3. The lake

The two-acre lake, which has good water quality for swimming, has a white sand beach. Near the end of the lake are two long wooden benches, which once served as beams for the grist mill that was at this location during the Civil War period.

Bass, catfish and bream are available for fishermen with a valid Florida fishing license.

"There are three good spots to catch fish,'' said Strickland, an Army and National Guard veteran who served two overseas tours. "All they have to do is ask me.''

4. The campground

The 24 roomy campsites are situated in a pine forest 324 feet above sea level, one of the highest points in Florida. Restroom and shower facilities have recently been renovated throughout the park.

5. Fireside chats

Once a month, usually the last Saturday, park rangers bring in guest speakers to the huge campfire circle at the campground. One of the most popular is "snake hunter'' Dave Hewett, an expert on Florida's reptiles.

"We often get local visitors for our campfire events,'' Strickland said. "They are hugely popular and seating is first-come, first-serve.''

6. The butterfly garden

This is one of the newer features at the park. Queen, monarch, emperor, swallowtail and dogface butterflies are attracted to the two-trellis vines.

Local Boy Scout Nick Butler recently completed his Eagle Scout project by building a boardwalk for the garden, extending in all four directions about 6 feet.

This story originally appeared on VisitFlorida.com

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