If you're looking for an RV destination that will have you feeling out of this world, then look no further. With fern-covered sinkholes, a terrestrial cave system, and carnivorous plants, Falling Waters State Park is one of Florida's most enticing state parks. The park is perhaps just as mysterious as it is enticing, as much of the early history of this area is still unknown. There is evidence that humans inhabited the area nearly 5,000 years ago, but most artifacts recovered are from the 18th and 19th centuries. In more recent years, the land has been used for economic endeavors like building civil war structures, distilling whiskey, and oil drilling. Some of these edifices remain and can be seen by visitors to the park. But you're in for more than a history lesson when you park the rig at Falling Waters.
Hike alongside the famed karst topography and see Florida's largest waterfall vanish into a sinkhole, or head to the butterfly garden to observe a wide variety of these beautiful insects. A small, three-acre lake is a popular hangout in the summer months, and visitors can go for a swim along the sandy beach, or cast a line from the accessible fishing pier. The park remains open year-round, and temperatures range from the low 60s during the winter up to the 90s during the peak summer months.
No matter what time of year you visit, you can stay in comfort in one of the 19 RV and trailer-friendly campsites with electric and water hookups. The campground has the highest elevation in the state and is situated amongst dogwoods and longleaf pines, providing guests with plenty of shade. Whether you stay for one hour or for one week, you won't soon forget Falling Waters State Park.
Located in the heart of the Florida panhandle, Falling Waters State Park is conveniently positioned about halfway between Pensacola and Tallahassee. Although the park may have you feeling like you left planet earth, you're really just a ten-minute drive from civilization. The closest town to the park is Chipley, just five miles north, and here guests can stock up on supplies, gas up the motorhome, or grab a bite to eat. The park entrances are located off of Highway 77A and Country Road 27 (to the east and west respectively), and major routes like I-10 and US-90 can be accessed nearby. This makes for smooth sailing when navigating to the park, even for those maneuvering big rigs or hauling a trailer.
Once inside the park, State Park Road will take you anywhere you want to go, including the campground, various trailheads, and picnicking areas. The park roads are wide and paved, so large vehicles should have no problem getting to and from their destinations. Visitors should adhere to the speed limits, as wildlife often cross the park roads.
Besides the campsites, additional parking areas can be found near the park entrance, the lake, and at the south end of the park.
Pine Ridge Campground is situated amongst towering pines in one of Florida's highest hills -- 324 feet above sea level to be exact. Guests will find 19 RV and trailer-friendly campsites equipped with water and electric hookups, picnic tables, and fire rings. Restrooms with flush toilets and hot showers are also located nearby, along with hiking trails and a playground for the kiddos. You'll also have access to a dump station.
Most sites are partially shaded, and maximum length restrictions vary between 24 feet and 45 feet. Pets are welcome at the campground as long as you can provide proof of vaccination. The campground is open year-round, and reservations can be made up to up to 11 months in advance.
If any of the sites at Pine Ridge Campground are not reserved in advance, they become available on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you couldn't snag a spot to park the campervan at Falling Waters State Park, there are a few options in the surrounding area. Due to the park's convenient location near I-10, you will be able to reach both Florida Caverns State Park and Three Rivers State Park in under an hour. Florida Caverns State Park is the closer of the two at 26 miles to the east and offers 35 RV friendly sites, some of which are equipped with electric and water hookups. Three Rivers State Park is about 50 miles east of Falling Waters and is equipped with 30 RV friendly sites, some of which are outfitted with water and electric hookups.
Designated as part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, you won't want to be without a pair of binoculars when you park the campervan at Falling Waters State Park. Over 100 species of birds have been seen in the park, including red-headed woodpeckers, summer tanagers, and brown-headed nuthatches. If you are visiting the park in the off-season, you'll have the chance to see some impressive migrating songbirds like the gray-cheeked thrush, blue grosbeaks, and eastern wood-pewees. Some of the best birdwatching can be found near the campground, amongst the roadside trees, and in lakeside shrubs.
Don't forget to pack your fishing gear and a Florida freshwater fishing license along in the Airstream when you visit Falling Waters State Park. Although three acres may not seem like much to work with when it comes to freshwater fishing, don't let the size of the park's nameless lake deceive you. Anglers have reeled in catfish, bream, and bass out of these waters, and though they may not be record-setting in size, its still a great way to spend a day at the park. You can cast out anywhere along the shore with the exception of the swimming area, or you can head to the ADA-accessible fishing pier.
If you fancy some adventure during your stay at Falling Waters State Park, then consider spending an afternoon geocaching. This modern-day treasure hunt is a great activity for the whole family and involves using a GPS enabled device to track down buried loot hidden throughout the park. Once you have located the cache, take out your plunder and replace it with something new. Geocache "swag" is usually something small and inexpensive, like stickers, pencil erasers, or handmade crafts. Don't forget to sign your name in the log before heading out to search for your next location.
When most people think about Floridian animals, they think alligators. Luckily, you won't encounter any of these when you visit Falling Waters State Park. Instead, you'll be treated to a tamer bunch of full-time residents. If you're lucky, you may catch sight of fox squirrels, foxes, a variety of lizards, snakes, or gopher tortoises. Tread lightly along the trails and park road for your best chance of seeing these critters, and look out for the snakes!
Some of Falling Waters's most popular sights can be seen along the park's three trails, so be sure to pack your hiking boots in the motorhome. The properly named Sinkhole Trail is the most traveled in the park and provides excellent views and information about the area's karst topography. You'll also enjoy views of Florida's largest waterfall on this trail, known as the Falling Water Sink. The "sink" gets its flow mainly from rainwater, so the best time to see the falls is during the rainy, summer months. The waterfall flows down into a large sinkhole, and where the water goes from there is still a mystery.
Once you've had your share of swimming, head to the small picnicking area near the lake to enjoy a scenic lunch. If you're not near the lake, two large picnic pavilions are situated at the south end of the park near the trailheads. Visitors will find grills and tables in the picnic area and ADA-accessible restrooms and a playground are also located nearby. If you'd like to reserve the pavilions for a special event or gathering you may do so in advance. For a more intimate picnic, head back to the campground and enjoy your meal right outside of the pop-up. Campsites are equipped with a fire ring and table.
The hot Florida summers will have you aching for a reprieve. Fortunately, Falling Waters State Park has a three-acre lake for visitors to splash around in. The lake features a roped-off swimming area and sandy beach, making it easy to spend the whole day swimming in the lake or soaking up some sun on the shore. No lifeguards are present at the park, so children hoping to play in the water should be accompanied by adults at all times. Visitors will find restrooms, showers, and a picnic area nearby.
History buffs and curious learners alike will enjoy the historical sites available at Falling Waters State Park. Before this area became a state park, it had a variety of different purposes. During the 1860s, a grist mill powered by the waterfall to grind corn into grits, and parts of the mill are still present at the park today. One of the state's first oil wells was erected here in 1919, and although it was an unsuccessful venture at the time it still stands tall to this day. For more information about these historical sites, head to the entrance station to speak to a park ranger.