The Withlacoochee State Forest is the third largest state forest in Florida. It totals 157,479 acres & has seven different tracts in Citrus, Hernando, Pasco and Sumter Counties. There are several hiking trails & campgrounds in each tract. Each tract has something different to offer, including caves to explore.
Most people don’t know that Florida has caves. Specifically I’m referring to karsts and dry caves. I’m not talking about the big caverns that you have to pay and go on a tour in.
Karst topography is a geological formation shaped by the dissolution of a layer or layers of soluble bedrock, usually carbonate rock such as limestone or dolomite, but has also been documented for weathering-resistant rocks, such as quartzite, given the right conditions.
In the Citrus Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest, the most famous are the Dames Caves. There are 4 different caves that make up Dames Caves. These caves have been around for many years and some of them show it. Being open to the public and having people coming and going as they please, most of the caves have been vandalized.
The first one that you will come to is Vandal Cave; when you go into the cave you will see why they call it Vandal Cave. There is a big hole in the ceiling and you can see in from the top. Then behind there is another cave called Sick Bat Cave, that gets its name from a bat they found in the cave years ago that was sick. The name stuck. There is a small little cave next to that one that drops down into a small room.
From the front of Vandal Cave there is a trail running to the left to another cave called Peace Cave. Peace Cave gets its name from the peace sign spray painted on the tree next to the entrance of the cave. This maybe the biggest of all the Dames Caves yet.
From the hiking trails you can find more caves. There is Danger Cave just down Forest Road 22 from Dames Caves at the corner of the Loop “D” trail. Some think it’s part of Dames Caves, but I’m not sure. You will find Morgan Cave on Loop “C” trail and Jeep Cave on Loop “B” trail. Finally there is a karst sink off Loop “D” called Lizzie Hart Sink and with the same type of rock formation there as well; I found another small cave nearby that I’m calling Lizzie Hart Cave. There are several more caves out there; when I find them I’ll post them.
Now I wouldn’t get all worked up if you been to the bigger caverns with the tours. These caves have been open to the public for years and some of them show it. I still enjoy going out there from time to time and taking my boys and having fun. These would be great beginner caves to explore before going into the bigger ones. This is in my back yard & I spend a lot of time in there just exploring off the trails.