The Florida we know is a relatively new phenomenon, geologically speaking. This distinctive peninsula and the gently sloping, sandy shorelines we're drawn to for recreation and renewal have not always existed as they appear today. In fact, Florida was a very different-looking place not so long ago, and over the past 500 million years it has had quite a unique and surprising geological history.
Tectonic plate activity carried the evolving Florida landmass on an epic journey of drift, collision, and rift—from the South Pole region to its present-day position in the northern hemisphere. Over millions of years, it has changed from a chunk of African-born bedrock to a miles-thick accumulated “platform” of marine-derived carbonate rock.
Olsen Sink, Suwannee County; and Megalodon shark tooth, FGS image
The Gillespie Museum's Florida Formations exhibit offers a brief introduction to this fascinating geology, with a focus on the past 200 million years, when calcium carbonate (derived from living marine organisms) built up in the warm shallow seas—which often covered ancient Florida—and formed the thick layers of distinctive rock units, or “formations,” that make up the larger Florida Platform. Interpretive panels, with associated specimen display cases, guide visitors through a series of significant phases of Florida's formational history, and include information on global and regional conditions during each time period, specific geological changes that occurred on and around the Florida Platform, and paleontological data from the fossil record.
The Florida Formations exhibit; and our replica limestone solution cave
You are welcome to view or download a condensed Overview of the Florida Formations story, or for a more in-depth account of our state's intriguing geological history, the Florida Formations Full Exhibit Text is now available in printable format online, as well as a set of Summary Questions based on the full text. We have a Florida Fossils Matching Game that focuses on some of prehistoric Florida's most amazing organisms, and a comprehensive List of the Specimens that are on display in the exhibit.
In association with Florida Formations and the Gillespie's epic, life-size limestone cave replica, the museum has developed an educational video on Florida's Caves and Karst Geology, presenting information on cave types and various cave formations, with a companion Caves Worksheet. For a PDF version of our Caves video and for more of the museum's online geology resources, including answer keys to our activity sheets, see our Geology and Mineralogy Educational Resources page.
Come on in and check out this great addition to the Gillespie Museum experience!
OR now you can also VIRTUALLY visit the Florida Formations exhibit, by clicking on links to the individual interpretive panels below.
- "Florida Formations" definition, and surficial geology of Florida map
- Introduction to Florida geology (500 million years ago - present)
- Panel 1, Florida Submerged: Cretaceous, Paleocene, & Eocene (145 - 34 million years ago)
- Panel 2, Paradise Island: Oligocene (34 - 23 million years ago)
- Panel 3, Florida Connected: Miocene & Pliocene (23 - 2.6 million years ago)
- Panel 4, Iceless Ice Age: Pleistocene (2.6 million - 11,700 years ago)
Geologists Harley Means & Sam Upchurch in Lecanto Quarry cave, Citrus County; and Rock Springs, Orange County