Ocala’s Hidden Gem

The River City Grotto Gang was excited on April 17, 2021. After long anticipation of hearing about Ocala’s Hidden Gem of a cave, the day had finally arrived to explore it. If you are in the Florida caving community, you hear talk of the beauty of Briar Cave. This is not a beginning cave trip, one must have experience to navigate the delicate features of this hidden gem. The funny thing is, that along with stories of how beautiful Briar Cave is, there are horrifying stories of missing key passages (such as the Elusive Squeeze), navigating pits and cliffs, swimming through very deep water with heavy cave gear, and surviving the Slot. So, along with excitement there may have been a little nervousness.

Upon arrival after cheerful greetings the excited group changed into cave duds, gathered gear, and trotted off toward where we thought the cave was. We had two leaders who both missed the sink where the entrance is located. Group members looked nervously at each other wondering if they should just bail out. If two experienced guides can’t even find the entrance what are the chances of survival in a cave that can kill you.

The entrance was located before anyone could bail, and in we went.

After locating the entrance, the second challenge is to get inside.

The group navigated back to the Melody Room for a break before getting wet in the subway. The water had come down a lot so the Southern Passage was (barely) accessible. The Southern Passage is a rare treat, so we made a safety plan and cautiously entered in small groups, due to air being marginally good.

It is a special experience to explore Briar Cave with special friends. It is nice to have this cave protected. If you are interested in visiting this hidden Gem-get with a local caving organization, learn to be safe and protect the fragile systems of the underground. Our goal is to protect these wonders for future generations.

Philip S. Walker