Explore Falling Waters State Park

February 11, 2013

Fourteen different species of fern can be disovered at Falling Waters State Park. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
Fourteen different species of fern can be disovered at Falling Waters State Park. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Enjoy fern-covered ancient sinkholes at this Northwest Florida park

Depending on what time of year you visit Falling Waters State Park, you may or may not view a cascading waterfall into a 100-foot deep ancient sinkhole, as the waterfall is dependent on the ground seepage from rainfall.

However, if you are a nature lover, don’t let the lack of a waterfall deter your interest in visiting this 173-acre State Park, as the geological wonders of the gigantic sinkholes are perhaps the most interesting feature this park provides.

A boardwalk path wraps around several ancient sinkholes with huge magnolias shooting up from the bases of the fern and moss-covered holes along Sink Hole Trail. The main feature, Falling Waters sink is the largest in the park at 100-foot deep, and 20-foot wide.

Depending on the recent rainfall, the waterfall at Falling Waters State Park can be strong or a trickle. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
Depending on the recent rainfall, the waterfall at Falling Waters State Park can be strong or a trickle. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Here is a list of some of the fern that has been identified at the park:
Maidenhair fern Adiantum capillus-veneris
Spleenwort Asplenium sp.
Ebony spleenwort Asplenium platyneuron
Southern lip fern Cheilanthes microphylla 17
Japanese climbing fern Lygodium japonicum
Bulbous adder’s tongue Ophioglossum crotalophoroides
Cinnamon fern Osmunda cinnamomea
Royal fern Osmunda regalis
Resurrection fern Pleopeltis polypodioides
Christmas fern Polystichum achrostichoides
Bracken fern Pteridium aquilinum
Southern shield fern Thelypteris kunthii
Netted chain fern Woodwardia areolata
Virginia chain fern Woodwardia virginica

Pine flat woods, wild flowers and wiregrass at Falling Waters.

The park has three short scenic trails to enjoy:
Terrace Trail is a walk through planted pinewoods. This area was harvested and replanted by a pulpwood company prior to it becoming part of the State Park.

Wiregrass Trail takes you through pine flat woods and crosses one of the streams feeding the waterfall. Along the trail is an abandoned, capped oil well – one of the first attempts in Florida to find oil. Prescribed burns help keep this trail in its indigenous state as long leaf pines and wiregrass are abundant along with wildflowers blooming year round.

Sinkhole Trail strolls through hardwood hammocks. The trail is easily accessible, as its boardwalk walkways are easily accessible, and overlooks the sinkholes formed in the limestone.

Interesting facts:
• During the 1778 British occupation of Florida, Native Americans were still living on Falling Waters Hill and the surrounding area. Though they left no written records, artifacts are often found whenever a field is tilled.
• In 1919, one of the first oil wells in Florida was drilled at Falling Waters. Indian legends and a wildcat stock promoter’s claim of oil, helped get the project going. A Tall, wooden derrick and steam driven rigs 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 released from the drill site temporarily excited area residents with a false report of a gusher.
Promoters continued to drill the oil well to a final depth of 4,912 feet. When all was said and done, no oil of commercial quality was ever found. The well was capped in 1921.
• The terrestrial caves of the park are documented roosting sites for the southeastern bat.
• There are 24 full-facility campsites nestled in a shady pine forest area, and provide the perfect excuse for an overnight stay at Falling Waters.
• Park rangers host interpretive programs in the amphitheater on Saturdays.
• One acre pond provides a natural swimming pool with restroom facilities
The park is located three miles south of Chipley, off State Road 77A. ::MAP::

Contact the Florida Park Service Information Center for general inquiries.
For Information about Falling Waters State Park, please call 850-638-6130.

To make reservations for campsites,  Click here.

Hours of Operation
8:00 a.m. to sunset

Driving Directions
Falling Waters State Park is located 3 miles south of Chipley off State Road 77, turn left on State Park Road and follow it to the park s entrance. From I 10, take Chipley Exit south on State Road 77 and follow signs to the park. Click here for park’s website.

Park Fees
Admission Fee:
$5.00 per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle.
$4.00 Single Occupant Vehicle.
$2.00 Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.

Camping Fee:
$18.00 per night, plus tax. Includes water and electricity.

Picnic Pavilion Fees:
$50.00 per day, plus tax: large pavilion with 10 tables. Seats 60 people.
$30.00 per day, plus tax: medium pavilion with four tables. Seats 24 people.

Falling Waters State Park
1130 State Park Road
Chipley, Florida 32428
Phone: 850-638-6130

Activities at Falling Waters State Park
Campfire Circle
The campground has a campfire circle and amphitheater for camper gatherings and summer interpretive programs presented by one of the Ranger staff. Spend the evening with a Park Ranger and watch a slide show at the amphitheater, or sit around a campfire and take in an interpretive talk and experience why the real Florida is so special. These programs are given on Saturday evenings and are free to registered campers.

Fishing is allowed in designated areas

Full Facility Camping – This 171-acre park has 24 campsites nestled in an upland pine forest. Each site has a picnic table, ground grill, and clotheslines. Water and electric are available and there is a dump station for your convenience. reservations for Falling Waters State Park can be made through the Florida Park Service’s Central Reservation Sytem. CAMPGROUND HOST If you are an energetic and gracious person who has the desire to provide hospitality and assistance to campers, Florida Park Service style, we have a job for you. Monitoring activities in the campgrounds and maintain the facilities and sites would be your duties in exchange for a campsite without charge for the duration of the agreement. If interested please contact the park office for further information

Nature Trails – The park has three short nature trails. One trail will take you past the butterfly garden as you stroll toward the waterfall sinkhole. Once there, you can actually walk down into this sinkhole and get a breath taking view of Florida’s highest waterfall. Then take an elevated boardwalk around a series of sinkholes under a canopy of southern magnolias and other hardwoods. There are self-guided tours and information kiosks throughout the park. A guided tour by a Park Ranger of Falling Waters State Park is available to groups by prior notification (call the park). As always, if your curiosity has gotten the best of you, and you want to know why we burn the park, have sink holes, or even have parks at all, just ask a Park Ranger.

Pet Camping – Pets must be confined, leashed (not to exceed six feet in length) or otherwise under the physical control of a person at all times. Tethered pets must not be left unattended for more than 30 minutes. Quiet hours must be observed from 11:00 p.m. – 8:00 a.m. Pet owners must pick up after their pets and properly dispose of all pet droppings in trash receptacles. Florida law requires that pets be vaccinated against rabies. Any pet that is noisy, dangerous, intimidating or destructive will not be allowed to remain in the park. Non-furbearing pets, such as reptiles, birds, or fish must be confined or under the physical control of the owner. Some animals may be prohibited on park property. Failure to abide by these rules may result in the camper being asked to board the pet outside the park or to leave the campground.

Picnicking – Bring your lunch and spend the day picnicking in a longleaf pine forest. Two pavilions (available for reservations), BBQ grills, picnic tables, restrooms, and playground equipment are available.

Public showers are provided.

Swimming – The park has a two-acre lake with a white sand beach. It is a great place to relax and get your feet wet. The swimming area of the lake is sectioned off for safety, and has a sand bottom. There are picnic tables, benches, and restrooms under shade trees. You can fish at the lake in designated areas with a Florida Freshwater Fishing License.