Tag Archives: turpentine industry

Tate’s Hell State Forest is Heavenly for Some Visitors

Many Visitors Think Tate’s Hell State Forest is Heavenly

Despite it’s name, many visitors think Tate’s Hell State Forest is heavenly. Not everyone thinks Cebe Tate was correct when he emerged from the woods and declared he’d been through hell.

Today, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Forestry manages the land (some areas are managed by the State of Florida) that encompasses Tate’s Hell State Forest and surrounding areas, with a goal to restore natural habitat while still allowing recreational use and limited commercial use. Slash pine stands have been thinned to a more natural setting or cleared altogether and replanted with longleaf pines better suited to the habitat. 15% of all revenue earned from the timber industry, recreational use, hunting, and other sources of income benefits Franklin and Liberty counties.

Birders watch for barred owls, the red shouldered hawk, wild turkey, bald eagles and red cockaded woodpeckers. Hunters stalk wild boar, bobcat, nutria, gray squirrel, beaver, and other wildlife, while photographers hunt wild deer and small game.

Other habitats within Tate’s Hell State Forest include the Dwarf Cypress stands found there: although well over 150 years old, the trees are only 15 feet tall. An elevated boardwalk takes visitors through the stands and the observation tower offers panoramic views of the trees. A six-mile hike along the High Bluff Coastal Hiking Trail takes hikers up ancient sand dunes that offer stunning views of the forest and St. George Sound or you may choose the educational eastern trailhead that offers information on the various ecosystems as well as the history of the turpentine industry that once thrived here.

Tate's Hell Forest #4As is usually the case with the unusual places featured in Finding Florida, odd names are attached to the place. Waterways within Tate’s Hell State Forest include Gully Branch, Sunday Rollaway, Alligator, Deep, and Cash Creek, as well as Whiskey George Creek. Road names are just as amusing: Jet Engine Road, Nero Road, Billy’s Road, Car Body Road, and Lake Morality Road are just a few that bring a smile to your face.

Hunting and fishing are strictly regulated here, and valid licenses, permits and stamps are required! Hunting is only allowed in designated areas at designated times. The Division of Forestry and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission establish the areas appropriate for Still Hunt and hunting with dogs. Off highway vehicles must have a registered decal and are restricted to designated areas.

While some find the supervision oppressive, most people who respect the habitat appreciate the balanced approach the federal and state government employ when managing access and resources and preserving the beauty within Tate’s Hell State Forest.

 

Dog Island Name Origin and Ownership

How Was Dog Island Named and Who Owns It?

Dog Island is actually a bit of land (less than 7 miles) that separated from St. George Island, and is one of a group of barrier islands that protect St. George Sound and Apalachicola Bay. It even sported a lighthouse at one time, built in 1838, that was later destroyed in 1899 by a hurricane that devastated the mainland town of Carrabelle.

There are various stories surrounding the origins of its name, the most outlandish being that it is a sanctuary for dogs to live out their last years without the stress of urban life. Untrue! I did see one dog with its owner walking on the beach one day, though. Some claim Dog Island is so named because the shape resembles a crouching dog. I don’t buy into that one, either. I thought that perhaps the origin of the name was connected to a stray dog that had been found on the empty island or a similar story, but it turned out not to be the case.

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There are two more likely explanations. Wikipedia attributes the name origin to the French, who discovered it in 1536, listing wild dogs, the shape of the island, and the practice of dropping sailors (known as “dogs”) there before going in to the mainland, preventing the men from abandoning ship, as the origin of the island’s name.

I think our ferry captain, Rusty Cahoon, is probably a bit more accurate. During the Civil War, Union armies would transport prisoners by boat, using Dog Island as a drop-off point. The prisoners were referred to as “Sea Dogs”. While the commanding officers went into town to drink and secure supplies, those left behind were unlikely to attempt an escape with a risky swim to shore.
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The story of Dog Island ownership is an interesting one. Evidence (pot shards, a 9th century canoe) of early Native American presence has been uncovered, and later, piracy and smuggling occurred. At one time, the island supported a thriving turpentine business, but it wasn’t until Florida businessman Jeff Lewis purchased it shortly after World War II that the idea of development began to threaten the area. Mr. Lewis, it seems, had some very definite ideas concerning the island and its future. While he did sell some lots to individuals, most of the island is now owned by the Nature Conservancy, which helps protect the fragile ecosystem on Dog Island, including the annual turtle-nesting season.

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The Nature Conservancy and the private homeowners value this island, as do most visitors. Help keep the area pristine by doing all you can to minimize your carbon footprint while here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Placid: a History in Pictures

Surprises Await in Lake Placid

We headed up central Florida’s Rte 27 and stopped for lunch at the All American restaurant in Lake Placid. I wasn’t overly impressed. Even though the sign offered breakfast and lunch, apparently they only serve breakfast on Sundays. I was told I could have a BLT, except they didn’t have tomatoes. My omelet was fine, but the potatoes were dry and tasteless and screamed for butter, salt, and pepper, in that order.

Lake Placid was not a complete bust, though. Known as the “The Caladium Capital of the World”, we thoroughly enjoyed the pictorial history of the area, as told in murals throughout the downtown area:Lake Placid #1

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The holdup of the Tropical State Bank in Lake Placid caused quite a stir back in the day. The boy depicted, Grady Parrish, was instrumental in foiling the attempted 1931 bank robbery. He received $10 for his effort. The mural has four dollar signs hidden within the painting.

Other murals depicted the prehistoric days of the area, settlement, and significant events in Lake Placid historyLake Placid #12

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The Florida panther is endangered now. My ancestors claimed their cry sounded like a woman screaming in the woods.

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One of the murals depicted the turpentine business that boomed back in the early days of settlement, but the camps date back to Colonial times.

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Before and during the Civil War, the camps were worked by slaves. After emancipation, former slaves viewed Blacks who joined the camps as traitors who signed away their newly obtained freedom. In the early 1900s, prisoners were released to work in the camps. The turpentine camps were deep in the pinewoods, isolated and known to be rough places. Camp bosses also ran the commissary; the only place workers could buy needed items. Unfortunately, most camp bosses charged outrageously high prices, which kept the workers in servitude, since most were not pain in money, but in scrip, which could only be redeemed at the company store. Those who tried to run away from their debts were hunted down. The work was dangerous, hot, and hard. Children born in the camps oftentimes knew no other kind of life.

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The woods around Lake Placid are quieter now. The bottom dropped out of the industry in the 1940s, and by the 1950s, the market for turpentine had collapsed. Sawmills took their place, as the dead trees were turned into boards that helped to build area homes. Heart pine stood up well to the Florida elements and insects did not find a welcome home for boring in.

The town of Lake Placid is surrounded by twenty-seven freshwater lakes and is a popular tourist destination. Lake Placid itself is far more accessible that Lake Okeechobee. Originally called Lake Stearns, the name of the lake was changed by in the late 1920s by a suggestion by Dr. Melvil Dewey, the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System.

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We finished our trip with a shopping spree for antiques in Arcadia before heading home, glad for a getaway that expanded our knowledge on Florida history.

Lake Manatee State Recreational Area, Pristine and Beautiful

Escape for a Day or Camp Overnight at Lake Manatee State Recreational Area

Located on state Road 64, fifteen miles east of Bradenton, Lake Manatee State Recreational Area encompasses three miles of Lake Manatee shoreline and 556 acres that once provided the common activities of pioneer days: cattlemen worked the land as hard as the farmers. The land also supported a busy timber and turpentine industry. Periodic controlled burns are used these days to clear the land and keep habitat from choking the area off.

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Today, it is an area for recreational activities such as camping, swimming, fishing (from the dock or boat) and boating and is open seven days a week, from 8 AM until sundown.

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Bicycles can be rented at the Ranger Station. They have fat wheels, making them suitable for biking on or off paved trails. A two and a half mile paved road provides bicyclists and hikers with a pleasant step back into nature and eventually loops around the two campground areas. For the more adventurous, there is another trail, unpaved, that is nearly as long, but offers a bit more challenge.

Lake Manatee, encompassing a 2,400 acre area, is now a reservoir for Manatee and Sarasota County drinking water. Fishing is popular here and the lake teems with catfish, largemouth and sunshine bass, bluegill, and speckled perch. Bobcats, alligators, deer, and gopher turtles, as well as numerous species of birds inhabit the area.

A boat ramp provides easy access to the lake. Boat motors are restricted to 20 horsepower, so it is a pleasant place for those who prefer to canoe or kayak. Water skiing is prohibited.

Swimming is restricted to a designated area. There are no lifeguards on duty so you swim at your own risk. Be warned: lake plants are sometimes blown into the swimming area. Their long roots can act like tendrils that can entrap an unwary swimmer.

There is a good-sized picnic area tucked under the scrub pine trees and the main pavilion (accommodates 12 tables and has electric and grill) can be reserved for a fee. The children’s playground is a popular spot for young families.

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The full-facility campground includes 60 campsites and a bathhouse and shower facility. RVs are limited to 65 feet. Each campsite is provided with water and electricity. A dump station is located near the campground entrance.

Pets are welcome, but must be well-behaved and on a six foot hand held leash at all times. Pets, excluding service animals which are allowed in all areas, are not allowed in the swimming area and should never be left unattended. Pet owners are expected to clean up after their pets so that everyone can enjoy the park freely.

Popular with people from all walks of life, the Lake Manatee State Recreational Area offers an escape from the busy-ness of daily life and reminds us to take time to slow down a little and appreciate our surroundings.

For more information call the Lake Manatee State Recreational Area at (941) 741-3028

 

In the Solitude of the Ocala National Forest

Peace and Quiet at the Edge of Ocala National Forest

Our friends own a cabin that backs up to the Ocala National Forest and invited us up for a visit. Since it was the last weekend before deer hunting season began, we figured it would be safer walking in the woods if we went then rather than later! We’d been visiting Brooksville and the only way to Salt Springs that made any sense was to take State Road 50 over to 19, then take 19 straight into Salt Springs.

The cabin is a simple one and its owner is a good carpenter so it is solid and well kept. We see with carpenter’s eyes, as well, and there are things I would change, such as install a larger window on the bedroom wall that looks out over the forest, but there are fun touches here and there: a large screened outdoor kitchen that overlooks a large circular fire pit, an outdoor shower, etc.

Mostly, though, we were seeking solitude, and it was gloriously quiet as no cell phone signals could get through. The forest’s 383,000 acres encompasses parts of four counties and is the southernmost and oldest national forest east of the Mississippi. The forest is bear habitat and they sniff around at night, hoping humans forget to secure the hatches (we didn’t).

The Woods Near Salt Springs Florida

The picture below was taken in the morning, just as the fog was lifting into the trees. The silence was complete. We ran into a couple of musket hunters later in the day (musket hunting is allowed the weekend before regular deer season, a nod to the days of the early settlers), but the morning was a solitary experience as I watched the forest wake up.

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When I first saw this part of the pine forest, my first thought was, “Telephone poles!” The forest protects the world’s largest contiguous sand pine scrub forest east of the Mississippi River.

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This area, as was much of Florida at the time, was a bustling turpentine industry around the turn of the century. After a burn, you can walk around and find broken terra cotta pots on the forest floor. These pots were used to collect the pinesap and hung high in the trees. When the industry folded, the pots were abandoned, unnoticed until the heat from a forest fire causes them to burst and the shards fall to the ground.

The path before us is such an unknown entity, isn’t it? You can see the tunnel up ahead, but where does it lead?

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Find mysteries that amaze your eyes such as Deer Moss, so named because it grows out of the forest floor in soft, small double clumps, looking just like new antlers on a deer.

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Remember the first rule to walking in the Florida woods and swamps: watch out for snakes when you are walking.

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This is a Pygmy Rattler, one of Florida’s most dangerous snakes. Its bite is quite venemous and requires a hurried ride to the hospital. Because it’s rattle is so small, the noise gives no warning. It seems to me that most trouble comes that way.