We went to Bozell Springs Cave this weekend (and last Saturday). Bozell Springs is about a mile up the Chipola River from the Florida Caverns State Park boat ramp in Marianna. Canoe rental is ten dollars for the whole day and it takes about forty-five minutes to paddle upstream but only twenty minutes to get back to the boat ramp going downstream. The cave itself has several entrances in two separate pools which are about one hundred feet apart. The first entrance is at the head of the spring run with a very high flow. I will refer to this entrance as Bozell 1. The second set of entrances is in a small almost isolated pool eighty feet away across private property. I will refer to this pool (and air access) as Bozell 2. Happily Bozell 1 and Bozell 2 are connected underground so there is no need to trespass. We learned to dive this cave progressively over a series of dives. I have decided to tell this story linearly rather than chronologically but first I will summarize our six dives so that I can refer to them at appropriate places in the linear description.
Dive 1: Paralleled the main line with our own. Aborted the dive a mere thirty feet short of where daylight from Bozell 2 can first be seen.
Dive 2: Didn't parallel the main line. Freaked out, wished we had paralleled, aborted the dive 130 feet past Bozell 2.
Dive 3: Paralleled the main line for 500 feet starting at Bozell 2.
Dive 4: First "normal" cave dive. (It is not normal to mistrust the main line and parallel it with your own).
Dive 5: Only dive my wife went on. Got to see her make all the same mistakes that John and I had made.
Dive 6: Only dive in which we took side strings off of the main line.
This and Bozell 2 are both wonderful places to free dive as there are multiple ways to go down one hole and up another. One of the things that allows a person to find the main line is that a lot of these alternate routes are impassable with tanks. Actually, we bumbled right into the main line by going straight down the chimney, but it is so discolored (blackened) that I mistook it for wire. On dive 1, I decided that this was some redneck's idea of cave line and I didn't tie off to it. The room at the bottom of the chimney is about twenty feet wide and tapering down to a point on the left. On the right is a cliff that goes up into a crack which is impassable until right beside where the main line suddenly turns straight up. Going up this cliff to the right of the main line gets you stuck. John and I had each been stuck there and although Kim went up to the left on the way in, she got stuck there on the way out. At the top of this cliff is a horizontal crack fifteen feet wide and thirty some feet long. The bad thing is that it is between eighteen and thirty inches high. On dive one John and I wedged ourselves in this crack like corks. We could see that the line ended thirty feet ahead and felt no need to be this constricted just to see thirty more feet of cave so we aborted the dive. It turns out that when you get to the end of the main line, you can actually see the light from Bozell 2. This was just part of the learning process for this cave. Kim managed to get so badly wedged in this crack that she could barely manage to raise her mask high enough off of the rock floor to allow me to poke a finger under it to point out which way she had to move to get loose.
As you leave Bozell 1 behind and glide up the slope into the daylight zone of Bozell 2, the passage goes straight ahead... into a no mount hole, or in my case, a place to get stuck. I missed this on dive 2 because I was verifying access to the surface. Instead of going on, I was checking out my opportunities to go up. But on dive three, I am trying to get through this passage when it occurs to me that I saw this from the back side and rejected it. The main line here is black and there is a twenty foot piece of it broken and drooping that scared the crap out of John. You have to wiggle through about thirty feet of vertical crack. At times both shoulders and hips will be touching the walls. Then there is fifty feet of passage four feet by four feet (it feels huge). After this, the line goes through a tight restriction. It turns out that one can drop through a hole in the floor (temporarily leaving the line) and pass through without so much as brushing the cave. On dive two we did not realize this and so we were squirming forward and down. When I popped out of this restriction, I was negative (when the rock has you pinned in place you don't realize you are negative). I am falling towards this huge mound of silt! I take a giant breath and JAM on the auto-inflater hose. Slowing, slowing, jam, jam, I leveled out and did not raise the silt cloud as I had feared. I stayed with the line with very little room between the ground and the ceiling, and silt was raining down from the ceiling. We had just entered this room (the breakdown room) on dive 2 when John called it because 1)Silt was raining from above and 2)John thought the line was rotten. Several people have laughed at John and I for thinking that a nylon string could rot. All I can say in my defense is "you were not there". This room has silt everywhere. We had NO intuitive sense of where we were and if we had silted out and broken this line... Anyway better safe than sorry.
The breakdown room
The breakdown room is 150 feet long and starts fifty feet wide but widens to seventy or so. This room was formed when the ceiling of a one hundred foot deep passage collapsed. This left a huge mound sloping down in three directions to a max depth of 110 or so. But you ride right on top of the mound and are way higher (fifty-five at the start to eighty-five at the end). At the end of the breakdown room, there is a shear, chalk-white, vertical cliff fifty feet tall. I actually missed this feature on dive three because I was too busy concentrating on running line and not getting lost and not silting out. On dive three, one of us bumped the main line. A string sized puff of silt 150 feet long and straight as an arrow hovered parallel to the line. Like a jet contrail, this silt line widened and dispersed as I swam along. By the way, the trick to going through the breakdown room is to steer right up the center and stay at least ten feet from the main line. The breakdown room took 150 feet to slope from 50 to 80, but in the last ten feet, it plunged down to 110 in the Big Room.
The big room is 100 by 200 at a depth of 115. As the permanent line enters the big room, it is on the ceiling. I hate this. On the way out from dive 4, John and I each lost this line. We hadn't silted out. We knew the way out. The line was within arms distance right above our heads. But we couldn't see it for a few seconds and that was scary. (This was not entirely a line problem. It also involved a lapse of attention from each of us.) About sixty feet in, the permanent line has a four-way intersection. This is a line no-no so John and I each studied it. It has two arrows on the correct string to get out. (We made Kim study it on dive five as well) On dive six, John and I went small distances down each of the branches of this line. At the end of the big room, the line sweeps almost straight up. I am told that the entire cave stays shallow for quite some distance after this but I can't verify it because that is where Mr. Deco told us to turn around.
This cave has it all! Tight places, huge places, scary places, silty places, mazy places, deep places and a swim through. It is good for multiple dives because unless you are way more talented than me, it is going to take a few dives to figure it out.
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