Rock climbing in the Southeastern USA

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Photo provided by Gunther Hoppe - Gunther Hoope boulders on some of Floridas best rock at Silver Bluff, alice Wainwright City Park, Miami.General Florida Climbing Information

 

 

Introduction:

Despite a lack of any decent climbable rock anywhere in the State, Florida supports a fair number of rock climbers (see Southeast Climber's Registry - Florida). Some are spawned from the many climbing gyms that have sprung up in our larger cities. Others are immigrants who bring their climbing hobbies with them. This guide is written for those who may be planning a visit to the Sunshine State as well as those locals who sit up at night wondering where that one piece of climbable rock is to be found in this huge state. For many years I've looked for that secret climbing spot within our borders. I have yet to find it. Truth is there IS climbable rock in Florida. However, it is so rare and insignificant it is not worth the effort to get to it.

State high point: Britton Hill 345 feet 

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Snakes.JPG (22710 bytes)Geology:

Florida has the distinction of being the flattest of all 50 states with a mean elevation of 100 feet. Geologically it is   a broad peninsula of limestone formed during periods of sea level fluctuation.. This platform was covered with sands and clays eroded from the Appalachian Mountains which flowed down the coast. In the lower portions of the state ocean currents carried most of the sand away leaving a broad flat area barely above sea level. There are few instances where the underlying limestone is exposed from the covering sands. Where it is exposed, it is found in low outcroppings subject to weathering.

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Quarries:

Some naturally occurring limestone exposures and outcroppings occur around the Gainesville area near to where I live. The crest of the Hawthorn Ridge formation is found west of the city. Mining of this near-surface limestone occurs in many small and large quarries throughout the region, and has been practiced since the 1800's. Abandoned quarries can be located which appear to offer excellent sheer walls ideal for top-roping and free climbing. Closer inspection finds the quality of the rock too poor and crumbly to climb.

Photo by Wayne Busch - Abandoned limestone quarries offer no climbing. The rock is poor and trespassing is boh illegal and enforced.

The limestone mined in Florida is more commonly called lime-rock. It is extracted by strip mining to be crushed for use in roads and as a component of cement. Explosives are frequently used to fragment the rock for extraction. The pits left behind are devoid of any truly solid rock. Hand and foot holds break off easily or crumble with pressure. The rock gets slick and soft when wet. Most of these pit mines were dug below the water table and now have deep pools beneath the cliffs making access from the bottom impossible. In case you are still tempted, it is illegal to trespass in these old mine pits, a law that is enthusiastically enforced. It's just not worth the risk and effort. Honestly, if there were any climbable rock in the quarries around this area, we probably would have bought one years ago.

Large view of quarry

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Photo by Machimoodus - View from the summit of Britton Hill, floridas highest point at 345 feet.Peaks:

Britton Hill

The highest point in the state is Britton Hill in Lakewood Park near the Alabama border. Soaring to 345 feet above sea level, this high point is the lowest of the 50 states. Only rarely is it snowcapped. It is the only state highest point comprised of sand.

Trip Report from Britton Hill

Larger view from summit of Britton Hill

 

Sugarloaf MountainPhoto courtesy Save Sugarloaf Mountain - www.savesugarloaf.com - View from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, elevation 312 feet.

A recent controversy over Florida's highest point has been raised by a grassroots organization in Central Florida. Claims have been made that Britton Hill doesn't represent peninsular Florida, that the true Florida highest point is 312 foot Sugarloaf Mountain near Orlando. Threatened by encroaching development, governor Bush has appointed a mountain climbing judge to settle the mater. Visit   http://www.savesugarloaf.com/

Larger view from summit Sugarloaf Mountain

In South Florida, the highest point to be found is at The South Dade Solid Waste Disposal Facility known locally as “Mt. Trashmore.” It’s basically a large mound of garbage covered with dirt with an amazing elevation of 149 feet.

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Karst Formations:

Photo provided by Mike Tennant - Mike Tennant boulders on the walls of a North Florida sinkhole

As the sea levels rose and fell, so did the freshwater tables of Florida which flow through the limestone base rock. The soft limestone is prone to dissolution by waterborne acids creating underground pockets and tunnels. Sinkholes are formed when a section of roof collapses into the underground chamber. These depressions sometimes have limestone walls which again appear to offer climbing potential.

Large view of sinkhole bouldering

There are many places in North Florida where extensive wet and dry caves can be found. Many of these contain long narrow passages with few large rooms. Here again, the quality of the rock remains too soft and chalky for any real climbing. The caves floors tend to be muddy, it's a pretty messy business and a lot of effort to go underground in search of climbing opportunities. Again, not worth the effort.Photo by Wayne Busch - Jackie Busch ascends a section of Warrens' Cave in Gainesville.

The is a small state park in the panhandle with a reputation of  having a climbing area. It's reported to be a 20 foot high limestone face near a cave entrance. I have not wasted my time looking for it.

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Exposed Stone:

Another common place to find exposed rock is along rivers and streams. Some of the largest boulders are to be found along the Santa Fe and Suwanee Rivers. This rock is characteristically brittle and soft. Same old story.

Photo by Wayne Busch - Exposed rock along the Suwanee RiverLarger view of Suwanee River

A small band of sandstone is exposed in several areas in the panhandle, a characteristic example of it to be found in Torreya State Park. It is soft enough to carve your name in it with a finger and barely 6 feet in height.

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Recommendations:

In Florida, go to a climbing gym. There is no quality rock climbing in the state.

Florida Climbing Gyms

Know of other places to climb in Florida? Send photos and a description and I'll add your information to this page. Thanks. - Wayne

Climbing the Highest Point in Peninsular Florida (Bok Sanctuary)

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Florida Trip Reports

7/27/00 - Bouldering in Florida? Here's Proof! Submitted by Mike Tennant - Mike and some buddies boulder at a sinkhole after some cave diving.

5/28/00 Southern Highpoints (FL & Al ) May 27 - 28, 2000 - Submitted by Machimoodus - A visit to the highpoints in Alabama and Florida on a Memorial Day road trip

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