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Two Versions of Florida’s Tallest Waterfall - Falling Waters State Park

Friday April 4th and Saturday April 5th, 2015
Falling Waters State Park
Chipley, Florida



FRIDAY April 4th


From Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park we drive north on I-75 and then west on I-10.  We’re headed for two nights at Falling Waters State Park and after 242 miles of straight interstate driving with one stop for gas we arrive.

At only 171 acres, Falling Waters is one of Florida’s smaller state parks.  It has one of the smallest campgrounds too with only 24 electric/water sites.  It’s very nice and quiet.  Somehow I manage to book the only paved site.  I guess it’s a handicapped site but it doesn’t say that on the site.   The other sites are also nice but many of them have slight leveling problems so I would recommend site 3. It is a 40’ pull through.  35’ RVs are the largest that are permitted in this park and this is a good site for them with two exceptions.   Other sites I would take if I could not get number 3 would be 8 and 16.  The latter is also a pull through.




The first exception is that the dump station on this little campground road is right across from the back of site #3.  This actually causes us no trouble at all.  There aren’t that many people using it in a day and there is no odor.







The thing that is a problem is that the dump site is right off the back of the campsite.  The problem is not the dumpsite itself but that if you are in this site, you have to drive all the way to the end of the road and circle around the loop and come back to pull in the site correctly so your hook ups are on the correct side.

Therefore, when you want to dump your tanks, you will have to go out of the campground and find a place to turn around and come back into the campground, go to the end, around the circle and come back to the dump station right across from where you just left.   Not a BIG thing but since we are only here for two nights, we elect to use the bathroom just down the paved path from the site and skip the tank dumping until our next stop which isn’t very far away.


Falling Waters is known for two things, Florida’s highest waterfall at 73 feet and the campground  is located on one of the highest hills in Florida.  It is situated in a pine forest 324 feet above sea level.    The sizes do make you want to laugh don’t they but in Florida both of these things are TALL.

There are two named trails in the park although they come together and one is really just a spur off of the other one. 

We need some exercise after what is for us a very long drive.  We arrive early enough that we decide to take a hike knowing it is not a long one.  We want to get a look at these falls. 

Sorry about the reflections in the map. 

As you can hopefully see here, the Terrace Trail goes off from the campground to Falling Waters Lake so that’s where we start, on red.  We will then continue on to the Wiregrass trail, orange, and finally to the brown sinks trail.  We skip the arm of the orange trail with the parking areas.






The lake is small and has a roped off swimming section which is very popular locally.   We walked back over on Friday morning and by 9am people had moved in with their coolers and set up at the two picnic tables right by the lake.







We walk on beyond the lake over the boardwalk and come to one of the first oil wells in Florida which was drilled here in 1919. 



A tall, wooden derrick and steam driven rig were used to drill for oil but the drillers had little luck.  When a depth of 3,900 feet was reached a blow of gas was released from the drill site temporarily exciting area residents with a false report of a gusher. Promoters continued to drill the well to a final depth of 4,012 feet but no oil of commercial quality was ever found.  The well was capped in 1921. All that remains is the shaft protruding from the ground.




Our wildlife siting of the day was this squash bug.   He’s really good size for a true bug.  And was a standout on the boardwalk railing.




 I read in the park brochure that the waterfall flows best in late winter or early spring so we should be here at the perfect time to see it look like this picture on the front of the brochure.  Looks fabulous doesn’t it?

The waterfall is formed where a hilltop stream flows 73 feet down over the rim of a 100-foot deep, 20 foot wide cylindrical sink and then disappears into the Earth.  The water's final destination remains unknown

As we approach the waterfall’s wooden staircase we are very surprised at what we see.




It’s beautiful and the sound of the water raining down is lovely beyond words.  But it sure doesn’t look like that drapery of water on the front of the brochure.





I love waterfalls no matter the size.  We mostly have the viewing platform to ourselves and we stay quite a while enjoying the distinctly cooler temperatures and the music of the water.


As we leave there is a circular offshoot trail that goes around several sink holes.  Unfortunately they are working on this boardwalk and about half of it is closed.   We walk around the half that is open and then return the same way we went.   The sun is in our eyes by now so only one picture turns out well enough to use.

If you love the springs of Florida as I do then you will have already learned about the karst landscape that causes many of them, the Devil’s Millhopper, this cave and the sink holes.  An enormously simplified explanation is that anywhere the substrate is limestone, as in Florida and other places with caverns, when rain falls and is mixed with the carbon dioxide  in the air it forms a mild acid.  This soaks into the ground and over time eats holes in the limestone.    The holes get bigger.   





The hole in the bottom of the sinkhole.



On our way back to the campsite David notices this sign by the swimming lake.  He’s thinking the waterfall is “controlled”.  It’s true that all over this country we refuse to let our waters run freely.  Although I can’t imagine why they would want to limit the water to the falls here.  That’s their claim to fame. 





We crossed into Central time today which was helpful on such a long driving day but will be equally problematic to lose that hour going the other way in a few days when we leave Florida.   It’s been a long day and feels later than it is.





Today we had thought we might kayak the near by Chipley River but we have not investigated this at all and need to run a couple of errands, most importantly to get some of David’s prescriptions refilled.   We also need to find somewhere to watch the two Final 4 Men’s Basketball games this evening.

First thing this morning we walk the trail to the waterfall where the lighting is much better than it was yesterday afternoon.  David is interested in where the water goes.




100 feet down this is what my zoom lens sees.





I’m just interested in water period.  I love water and can’t imagine living anywhere again that doesn’t have a water place for me to be.  I’m happy on the road as long as pretty often I can be near water of one sort or another.  One of the best parts of this life is seeing all the many and varied waters in this land.






Lichens, ferns, mosses and liverworts are behind the falls and around the sides of the sink hole.   The falls may be little but they are still just beautiful.  And the sounds of the water flowing over and tumbling down are gentle like a lovely rain.





















One last look back and we return to the board walk headed for our errands and a night of basketball.


On the pavement near the little lake we find that a kindred spirit has made an important mark in the concrete.  Sure hope everyone who walks by notices it.




Since we don’t get Turner TV, we can’t watch the games at home.  It seems that Washington County is a dry county here in Florida so there are no sports bars where the NCAA Final 4 might be showing.  We end up at Pizza Hut where they graciously allow us to linger over a pizza from 5:00 until nearly 10.  For all of the Duke win over Michigan State and half of the Wisconsin win over Kentucky.  Actually they would have let us stay for the entire thing but we think we know who is going to win the second game, we are tired, it’s after 11:00 “our time” and we’re old folks.  We listen to the end on the radio and decide we should have stayed to watch it.  Oh well……………  We have to move again tomorrow though it is one of our shortest moves ever so we can sleep in.


  1. Thanks for the overview. I was thinking of staying there as we leave here, but I found three nights at Topsail Hill. We leave tomorrow 4/12 and will be there three nights. Are you in that area??

  2. Waterfalls in Florida? Who knew? Glad to learn about this! It's also great to learn about the lesser known parks of Florida thru your eyes...Safe travels!

  3. That is a nice little park but not much to do there. We never saw that much water in the falls, either. They must have taken the brochure photo after a really hard rain.

  4. I have enjoyed your tour of the Florida State Parks as well, and I, like you love being near the water, in any form, falling, flowing, crashing. . .nothing like the sound of water moving. . .

    Travel safely on your journey north. . .

  5. For a sweet little park it offers a nice walk and swimming. Although I don't really consider myself a 'water baby' I do love the sound of flowing water and could easily live by a creek, lake or waterfall (with just a little more water). And even though I love to visit the beach I wouldn't want to live there permanently.

  6. Now if you just carried a few more lengths of sewer hose, you'd have found that dump station to be quite handy! :cD

  7. I love water also, but my absolute favorites are rivers (of any size) and creeks & streams.

  8. Seems like two days was plenty for you to enjoy that little park. Waterfalls can be mesmerizing.

  9. The squash bug is quite a big one!

    That waterfall is such a pretty one.

  10. I'm with you on being around water. When we lived in south Ga for 5 years, we found we really missed the springs and ocean. You would like the north Ga mountains....so many beautiful waterfalls. We did a long and hard hike years ago at Cloudland Canyon SP, in Ga. It was supposed to have a nice waterfall. After the very strenuous hike, all we saw was a tiny dribble of a waterfall. Very disappointing. I think it was in the fall.

  11. Passed bye that park a number if times. Looks like we will have to stop:)

  12. I've always known you were a water junkie, but this basketball fever is really something that surprised me. Must be serious to stay up til 11pm;o))

  13. When I saw that brochure and heard there was a stream feeding the waterfall, I wondered how the stream could turn into the pictured cascade of water - was that even the same falls or some pretty fancy advertising? That's not to say that maybe it does not sometimes look like that, especially if they made a pond to make sure the falls always has water moving over it - wonder where the water goes?! That park trail map looks a bit bird-like. A 324 foot hill - you sure aren't in the mountains there!! Now mountains AND water - that is the true dream ;)

  14. Sure doesn't look like the brochure but it is still very cool!!! They must have taken the brochure shot right after a big storm. I like that there are several parts to the falls:)

  15. I suppose they use the lake to stock up enough water to open the drain for one picture, then shut it back down. In a limestone sink I have to believe this water is returning to the Florida aquifer. Nice park, but trails are too short and water was disappointing.

  16. I'm with you -- I'm happiest when I'm around water. Doesn't matter what it is -- ocean, lake, river, waterfall -- just so long as there's water! Even though the falls aren't roaring at Falling Waters, it's certainly a beautiful spot.

  17. You're right, those heights are laughable...but you got to take whatever mountains (hills) you can get while in Florida! This is one of the reasons we have not ventured east for the winter yet...the flatness!

    Water is awesome isn't it!

  18. With all the rain there this year it is surprising to have so little coming over the falls, even with the interference. Still beautiful with all the lush growth and the music of the water. There is a place we hope to stay on the Olympic Peninsula this summer called Elwa Dam. The great part is that there is no longer a dam. They removed it to allow for the natural spawning of the salmon. Within weeks of returning the river to its natural flow there were salmon moving upstream and increased wildlife all around the area. There is a small RV park there "The best rv park by a dam site." Love it :-)) Have never heard of a squash bug - I suppose his mother thinks he's cute. Sort of looks like a shrimp out of water.

  19. Never heard of that park, glad you showed it to us! Love water myself, far and few between here in CA as you know. Looking forward to moving on to Montana, and hope to see some glacial lakes there.

  20. Having read and seen all your other waterfall adventures this one could be disappointing but that is what makes our lifestyle wonderful. And you got the right attitude, whether the water is just trickling or gushing it is still a beauty to be appreciated.
    I noticed that the fonts on comments are cursive just like how my Mom writes.


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