Just slightly over an hour west of Tallahassee is a cave system Bill (Hogarth) Main is reported to have called, “The prettiest I’ve ever seen.” Odds are, however, you’ve never been there.
Due to factors such as distance (three hour’s drive from the sites most Florida cave divers are familiar with), logistics (the fill stations most cave divers are familiar with are equally distant), and procedures (who likes to check in and check out with Big Brother, just to go diving?), the few cave divers who visit Jackson Blue do so only when everything else is flooded. The irony is, by avoiding Jackson Blue at other times, they are depriving themselves of one of the state’s best cave dives.
Jackson Blue is located just outside the town of Marianna, Florida. Upon arriving in Marianna, your first stop will be the Sheriff’s office. If this is your first visit, the Dispatcher will have you complete a form while he/she makes a photocopy of your driver’s licence and C-card. This is a process you only need complete once; your information will be on file from this point on.
The dispatcher will also have you log in and post your expected departure time. He or she will also collect your diving fee. The dispatcher will give you a key to Jackson Blue, unless they are all checked out. If no keys remain, the Dispatcher will ask you to get one from divers who are already on site, but leaving ahead of you. When you are done diving, you will have to go back to the Sheriff’s office to check out. If you are responsible for a key, turn it in at this time.
Once at the site, the permanent line is easy to find and starts a little over 100 feet inside. When exiting during daylight hours, you will see the entrance long before you reach the end of the line.
Jackson Blue is among the most beautifully decorated of all Florida caves. There are fossils everywhere. You can, for example, see intact sea biscuit shells embedded in the limestone. Given how old the limestone is, seeing these intact shells is nothing short of a miracle.
The first few hundred feet of cave are relatively shallow (40-50 foot range). Then the main line drops through a very pronounced fracture to the 90-foot range. The main line goes back several thousand feet. Along the way, you will see a number of offshoot lines for further exploration. (There is more than enough to keep you busy here for several dives.)
Be sure to check out the deeper area that will be on your left as you enter and on the right as you exit, between the fracture and the entrance. There are a number of interesting things down here. Finally, be sure to take some time to play around in the general vicinity of the entrance before leaving the cave. Some of the neatest things to see can be found in just the first 200 feet.
Jackson Blue is not the area’s only cave. In Merritt’s Mill Pond you will find entrances to Hole-in-the-Wall and Twin Caves. Diving these, however, requires a boat.
A detailed road map showing how to get all of north-central Florida’s most popular cave diving sites is available for download in Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF). 2 pages; 1,002K