Exploring Northwest Florida
Exploring Northwest Florida
Falling Waters State Park is home to Florida’s tallest waterfall. No, it's not horizontal. It'a actually a flowing stream that drops into a 100-foot deep
sinkhole before disappearing underground, perhaps into an underground river. Fed by a series of springs that form natural drainage cuts though the limestone bedrock, this natural geological feature is dependent on seasonal rains to give it its sometimes spectacular flow.
Sitting atop one of the highest hills in Florida, Falling Waters State Park is located a few miles south of Interstate 10 off highway 77 in Washington County. At 324 feet above sea level, Falling Waters Hill is only 21 feet shorter than Britton Hill, Florida’s highest point located in nearby Walton County.
The hill’s limestone-base is riddled with underground caves and sinkholes, and the pine forest is home to wildlife which makes for some great outdoor Exploring.
The park offers a variety of day-use activities as well as overnight camping. Facilities include a picnic area with picnic tables and grills and two covered pavilions available to rent for parties and larger groups. There are three short but interesting nature trails, a two-acre swimming and fishing lake, a playground and a small butterfly garden. Restrooms include showers and are wheelchair accessible.
There are three nature trails that take you to different sections of the park.
The Sinkhole Trail is partially paved and accessible with a boardwalk that leads to the waterfall past several sinkholes. It is a leisurely 45-minute walk through a hardwood hammock. A wooden stairway leads down into the sinkhole so you can view the waterfall from below.
The Wiregrass Trail is an easy 20-minute walk through pine flatwoods. It crosses one of the streams that feeds the waterfall and passes by an abandoned and capped oil well which was one of the first attempts in Florida to drill for oil.
The Terrace Trail is a 15-minute walk through a planted pine forest and leads to the camping area.
There are 24 campsites for tent and RV camping (accommodates RVs up to 40 feet in length) with water and 20/30/50 AMP electric hook ups (no sewer). Each site has a picnic table and grill and a clothesline. Pets are welcome, but they must be on a 6-foot leash. There is a restroom facility with showers, a campfire circle, a children’s playground and an amphitheater. Camping reservations can be made by calling (800) 326-3521 or through ReserveAmerica.
Artifacts of Florida history have been found at the park, particularly those of one of the first wildcat oil drilling ventures in the state. In 1919, after years of rumors and legends of a substance under the ground that could be burned, a wooden derrick was constructed and a group of men began to drill for oil with a steam-driven rig. As you follow the Wiregrass Trail, interpretive signage tells the story of the oil drilling effort and how after nearly 5000 feet with no significant oil to be found, the well was capped and abandoned in 1921.
Prior to oil drilling, the area had a gristmill in the mid-19th century that was powered by the waterfall and ground cornmeal. In 1891 a whiskey distillery furnished spirits to the railroad workers who laid the tracks for the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad as it passed through Chipley, Bonifay and DeFuniak Springs.
Falling Waters State Park is located at 1130 State Park Road three miles south of Chipley, Florida and about 28 miles east of Ponce de Leon Springs State Park. The park is open year round from 8 a.m. to sunset. Entry fees are $5 per vehicle with a maximum of 8 people. Pets are permitted in designated areas as long as they are on a leach no longer than six feet long. Camping is $18 per night plus tax and includes water and electricity.
The waterfall drops nearly 100 feet
into the sinkhole below.
If the weather has been dry, you might want to call the park to make sure the waterfall is flowing. When drought conditions persist, the falls is reduced to a trickle. Also, if you go in the warmer months, be sure and bring bug repellent. I was last there in the early spring, but the mosquitoes were starting to gather in the sinkhole even then. For more information call 850-638-6130 or visit the park website at Falling Waters State Park.