Warren Cave Nature Preserve
Alachua County, Florida
Warren Cave in Alachua County is the longest known dry cave in Florida with more than four miles of mapped passage. With the help of the Florida Speleological Society, The Nature Conservancy was able to acquire this property in 1976. However, in early 1991, the entire tract of land was donated to the NSS to ensure perpetual access for experienced cavers.
During the 1850s, Florida was embroiled in the Seminole Wars. A series of battles was fought up and down the Florida peninsula. Militia and home guard units sprang up everywhere and settlers built strategically located forts throughout the states. Among the many engagements of the wars was one which is closely tied to the history of Warren Cave. On Sept. 11, 1836, Colonel John Warren led his men in the battle of San Felasco Hammock near the site of Warren Cave.
Whether or not Colonel Warren was actually the discoverer of Warren Cave, as local tradition claims, history at least lends some basis for the assumption in the historical record. Colonel Warren did at least lend his name to the cave. John Lee Williams, writing in 1837, gives this account of the battle in In The Territory of Florida:
“On the tenth of September a cart attended by three white men and two negroes was sent from Newmansville (near the present town of Alachua) to gather corn in a field about a mile from the village; they were fired upon by Indians. The men and Negroes escaped to the fort, but left the cart in the hands of the enemy. It was a rainy evening: the spies were sent to discover the situation and force of the enemy. They were discovered in the hammock of San Felasco four miles distant, about 300 in number. The next morning (Sabbath) Colonel Warren marched out to attack them at the head of 150 men, 100 mounted volunteers, 25 gentlemen citizens, and 25 United States troops. He advanced in three columns, the right led by Col. Warrren, the left by Col. Wills and the centre by Capt. Tompkins with the regulars and a 24 pound howitzer. Within three quarters of a mile of the hammock they were met by the enemy, and the battle immediately commenced along the right wing and centre, while the enemy attempted to turn the left flank; but were charged with spirit by Col. Wills, who drove them into the scrub on the border of the hammock from which they were routed by the artillery, which played upon them with great effect. Their next attempt was on the right; but they were soon driven again under range of the howitzer, which did good execution. The Indians twice charged upon the centre, to take the howitzer, but were repelled, and they were at length routed at all points and driven one and a half miles into a dense hammock.” (probably that in which Warren Cave lies, judging from the map in William's book).
A narrow stagecoach road passed near the cave during the latter 1800s and early 1900s. One of the stage stops, in fact, was quite near the cave. Warren Cave came to be well-known through north-central Florida and when the USGS mapped the area in 1894, they figured Warren Cave predominately on the topographic sheet.
As it remains today, Warren Cave was a popular spot for week-end outings. Early adventurers explored the cave by the light of torches and kerosene lanterns. The soot they left on the walls and ceilings remains today — heavy up to the pit just within the entrance and almost imperceptible as you approach the end of the Historical Section. Two of these early explorers are known to have fallen to their deaths while trying to attempt to cross over the top of the pit. Sometime during the l89Os an attempt was made to commercialize the cave and wooden ladders were installed in the pit. Needless to say, the attempt was a failure.