Friday, March 18, 2011

Archaeology Month is in full bloom.

Tuesday we hopped on our bikes once again to tour a favorite site in northeast Florida.  Ravine Gardens State Park is a lovely place for a ride, and is itself steeped in history. 

Park partner Alfred Bea greets FPAN staff and our first cyclist to arrive.

We arrived at the park to find perfect weather--a sunny, breezy day--and the azaleas approaching full-bloom.  It was so wonderful to see another active park, full of walkers and cyclists getting out to enjoy the landscape and fresh air. 

 Ravine Gardens amphitheatre--part of the historic landscape of the park.  It was created in the late 1930s to host the wildly popular beauty pageant during Azalea Fest.

Our tour group hopped on bikes and rode the paved path through the park, stopping at historic features of the park, lookout spots, and interpretive signs.  We discussed the history of the park, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Park development played a significant role in helping Palatka recover from the Great Depression and promoted tourism.

Our tour discussed people who lived along the St. Johns River, from prehistoric mound builders to the recent past.

We also spent some time talking about local archaeology--though there's not much evidence of prehistoric habitation in the park itself, ample evidence exists of people living along the St. Johns River for thousands of years.  In keeping with the Florida Archaeology Month theme, "Native Plants, Native People," we discussed prehistoric plant use and how it emerges in the archaeological record. 

Palatka's Water Works diverted some of Whitewater Creek to provide water to the entire city from 1886 until 1986.

The tour went on to explore the more recent past, including Spanish and British activity in the area as well as the Seminole and Civil Wars.  Interpretation ended by the Water Works, a plant that provided water for Palatka from 1886 to 1986.

Before our trek back up the ravine's path, we stopped at the very bottom to linger by the water.  There we saw native azaleas in bloom, cypress lilies, and took a quick trip across one of the park's suspension bridges.  We just spent a few minutes and let the park speak for itself.

If you'd like more information on Ravine Gardens State Park, visit:

To learn about Putnam County's most famous site, visit:

And for more on prehistoric people who lived along the St. Johns, see: (in particular, look at the "Archaic" and "East and Central" entries)

To see all of our pictures from Ravine Gardens and other Florida Archaeology Month site visits, check out our photo gallery:

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