Beyond Destin: Falling Waters State Park (PHOTOS)
Destin has a lot to offer, and although its beaches are world-famous and its seafood delicious, there are hundreds of hidden treasures in the surrounding area of Northwest Florida that yield for fun adventures, day trips and weekend getaways. This column which will be featured on Wednesdays, will follow the wanderings of reporter, Savannah Vasquez, and explore the many opportunities in Destin’s surrounding area. I invite you to explore with me Beyond Destin.
What does Northwest Florida define as a waterfall? Well it may not be defined as the cascading waters of the West, or even the flowing waters of the upper southern states, but the waterfall at Falling Waters State Park is worth a trip if only to see the amazing 100-foot deep and 20-foot wide limestone shaft that it trickles into.
The water fall tends to ebb and flow depending on the time of year and the amount of rain fall, so I’ve learned that the best time to view the falls is right after a rain storm. The day my family and I recently visited the park happened to be the day after a big rain so there was plenty water, albeit not a gusher.
We discovered through posted signs throughout the park, that the waterfall shaft is actually a deep limestone sink hole, and at 73-feet, claims the title of Florida’s highest waterfall. The water flows 73 feet down the shaft and then disappears into an underground cave network whose end destination is still unknown.
In fact, a large portion of the park is situated above limestone faults that have caved-in leaving large leaf-covered sink holes that can be viewed via wooden boardwalks. I imagined what it must have been like when the ground suddenly gave way to create such large sink holes, but tried not to over think it as I began to wonder if it might happen again right where I was standing.
Several hiking trails meander through the park, many with new boardwalks and paved walkways for a leisurely stroll. Along the boardwalks posted signs explain the plant life and even the site of an old grist mill and failed oil well. One sign that seemed absurdly out of place was a post reading “Feelings.” I believe the sign was meant to encourage hikers to enjoy their surroundings as it read, “Observe the inviting feeling you get as you look into the open area the trail is leading you to. The positive sensation is that of safety because you can see there is no danger. Animals in the dense forest get the same impression.” However, I beg to differ as directly below this sign we encountered a snake that fell from an overhanging tree onto the boardwalk. I guess nature has a way of teaching us we have no power against it!
After our snake adventure,(I think it was more afraid of us as it quickly slithered off), we came upon a two-acre lake. The man-made lake was created in effort to keep the water fall supplied with water, but it also offers visitors a place to take a cool dip or cast a line. The swimming area is very small, but the lake is beautiful as it features a white sand beach and is lined with tall pines.
Camping is also available at Falling Waters State Park with 24 sites offering tent camping near the lake, group camp sites and R.V. sites. Picnic tables and pavilions are scattered throughout the park for events and lunch in the park, and a play ground offers a place for the little ones to enjoy.
Falling Waters State Park is located at 1130 State Park Road in Chipley, Florida. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset and costs $5 per vehicle to enter. Camping is also available by reservation call 638-6130 for more information.