The Call of the Wild

First used by Aboriginal Indians, visitors now flock to the only Florida caverns open to visitors.

Photo by Scott Holstein

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Local folks will tell you that Jackson County is where Mother Nature and Father Time made a pact to preserve “the very nature of Florida.” One visit to these low rolling pastoral hills dotted with majestic stands of pine and live oak and laced with unspoiled waterways … and you can see proof positive of their handiwork.

Tourism is the No. 1 economic engine for the Sunshine State, and this patch of Northwest Florida is working to attract more tourist traffic. There are certainly entertaining events, festivals and activities that allow visitors to enjoy the great outdoors here all year round. But unlike much of Florida, the star attraction in Jackson County isn’t a cartoon mouse, but rather the wonders of nature that entice visitors here.

“People come here for the quiet, the pristine nature and to get away from it all,” says Pam Fuqua, executive director of the Jackson County Tourist Development Council. 

There is something for everyone looking to get a “bird’s-eye view” of Jackson County’s “green” scene. Water lovers can cool off in the meandering streams, rivers, crystal clear springs and lakes — from the Chipola River to Blue Spring to Spring Creek to Lake Seminole — with swimming, boating, canoeing, tubing or diving. Land lovers can enjoy the picturesque scenery while camping, hiking nature trails and bicycling. Horseback riding, birding and tossing a line into the Apalachicola River and Ocheesee Pond are just a few of the delightful distractions for sportsmen who venture here. As for souvenirs, wading into river and creek beds for arrowheads, mastodon teeth and other artifacts become one-of-a-kind keepsakes any nature lover would prize. 

The backdrop in this county is filled with wildflowers, trees and plants more typical of the Southern Appalachian Mountains of North Georgia. And woodpeckers, barred owls, beavers, alligators, snapping turtles, grey fox, bobwhite quail and other native wildlife found in the forested parks offer a quite a show for would-be wildlife photographers. 

Yes, ecotourism is a natural here. 

Still, the real thrill of Jackson County for those who love adventure just may be found diving underneath the surface of the cool, natural springs and inside its mysterious, craggy caves and caverns. 

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