Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Blackwater River State Park


Blackwater River State Park is considered one of the purest sand-bottom rivers in the world, the Blackwater River is in its natural state for almost its entire length. Beginning 45 miles upstream in Alabama, it continues downstream for 13 miles before emptying into Blackwater Bay. The river's sand bottom, dark tannin waters and contrasting large, white sandbars have drawn worldwide attention and provide the perfect setting for this 590- acre park. The river attracts paddlers from far and wide and has been designated a Florida canoe trail. The last two miles of the trail are located within the park. Besides being  a favorite destination for canoeists and kayakers, Blackwater River offers opportunities for a variety of outdoor recreation. The river is one of the purest sand-bottom rivers in the nation, making this park a popular place for swimming, fishing, camping, and paddling. Shaded campsites are just a short walk from the river, and visitors can enjoy a picnic at a pavilion overlooking the river.

 Upland pine forests dotted with persimmon, turkey oak, sweetgum, flowering dogwood and other shrubs are found in the park. Open canopy forests combine different types of pine and dense groundcover such as gallberry, saw palmetto, wiregrass, wild blueberry and wax myrtle. Along the river and large streams in the floodplain area, the forest is dominated by various species of oaks and hickory, red maple, sycamore, magnolia, holly, tupelo and azaleas. The water level in the floodplain and swamp lakes fluctuates and may even become completely dry. Plants vary according to the water supply. Look for water fern, water lily, coontail, bladderwort, spatterdock and other emergent plants. White-tailed deer, bobcats and turkeys are quite common. River otter may be seen occasionally and the graceful Mississippi kite is often observed soaring overhead in the summer.

The park has such amenities as birding, boating, canoeing, fishing, hiking, kayaking, picnicking areas, swimming, tubing, wildlife viewing and full camping facilities. The main picnicking area has covered picnicking pavilions, restrooms, and a spacious parking lot. Bring your tubes and enjoy a leisurely float down the river to the Deaton Bridge. It is a short 1 mile hike back to the parking lot to retrieve your vehicle. Very kid friendly park with a variety of areas for swimming.

Blackwater River State Park was established in 1967. The park opened to the public on November 22, 1968 and consisted of 360 acres. On July 17, 1981, the park acquired 230 acres from the Division of Forestry. Today, the park contains 590 acres of upland pine forests, swamps, and scrubby ridges and is surrounded by the Blackwater River State Forest. Atlantic white cedars line the river and the 1982 Florida Champion, recognized as the largest of its species, is found within the park. The park was also certified as an official Registered State Natural Feature in 1980 for possessing “exceptional value in illustrating the natural history of Florida”.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Florida Nature: Natural Bridge Battlefield



In honor of Memorial Day, we want to remind people of a great historical battle ground in Florida. Natural Bridge Battlefield State Historic Site is a Florida State Park in Leon County, Florida. It is located roughly between the city of Tallahassee and the town of St. Marks. During the American Civil War, the Battle of Natural Bridge was fought here on March 6, 1865. The site is named for a natural bridge over the St. Marks River.

Natural Bridge is the site of the second largest Civil War battle in Florida and where the St. Marks River drops into a sinkhole and flows underground for one-quarter of a mile before reemerging.

This site illustrates the crucial role the lay of the land can play in military strategy. In early March of 1865, Union General John Newton and naval Commander William Gibson mounted a two pronged advance toward Tallahassee. Newton landed his troops and headed north, but Gibson's gunboats ran aground in the St. Marks river. When word reached Tallahassee, the limited Confederate forces were quickly reinforced with volunteers. Some volunteers were recuperating veterans, while others were men as old as seventy and boys as young as fourteen.

When General Newton encountered stiff resistance at Newport Bridge, he opted for a surprise attack across a nearby natural bridge. This move had been anticipated by Confederate General William Miller, who entrenched his forces there. The Confederate repelled three Union attacks in twelve hours. Union losses totaled 21 killed, 89 wounded, and 38 captured. Confederate losses totaled 3 killed and 22 wounded.

Deciding the battle was lost, Newton retreated. Southern pride still warms to this victory for it left Tallahassee the only confederate capital east of the Mississippi never to be occupied by Union armies.