Florida Caverns underground tours reopen after Hurricane Michael

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JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WTVY) -- Florida Caverns State Park has been closed for 9 months to visitors while workers rebuilt what Hurricane Michael destroyed. On July 1st the cavern tours, their main attraction, is open again. Tourists can now crawl through the caverns the way explorers did when they discovered them.

The Jones and Walker families spent hours crawling through the Florida Caverns State Park on Monday, admiring stalactites, stalagmites, and stone draperies. Spying items with the help of a flashlight.

Hurricane Michael ruined the electrical system in the caverns, now nine months later, the park welcomes tourists with flashlight led tours. Tours that used to be exclusive to special groups.

"It gives the visitors an opportunity to see the caves the way the original explorers in the late 1930s would have seen it," said Billy Bailey, asst. park manager.

The park lost 90 % of its trees in Hurricane Michael, creating a new ecosystem.

“The wildlife has returned to the park and we've been seeing new animals we've never seen here before," said Bailey.

60% of the buildings were destroyed. Bailey says it's a chance to modernize.

"It's a step by step process, this has become a good opportunity to asses the buildings and determine is this the best place to rebuild?” said Bailey.

And down below …a natural wonder waiting to be explored by anyone brave enough.

Bailey says recovery is happening in phases. In a couple of weeks, the Hickory Pavilion will be open, which hosts up to 100 people. Tours are given about once an hour. They cost $10.75 for adults and $5 for kids under 13. It’s free for ages 0-2.

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