Monday, December 2, 2013

View from atop Turtle Mound, looking north at Canaveral Seashore.
As the weather gets cooler outside, we've gotten the itch to get outside! Recently, Ryan and I loaded up to visit our good friends Dot Moore and Roger Grange on a site tour of some great places in Volusia County. On our list were Turtle Mound, Castle Windy and Eldora, all of which are in the Canaveral National Seashore.

The Canaveral National Seashore runs along the coast in southern Volusia and northern Brevard counties. It's a National Park with great places to hike, swim and, of course, some wonderful archaeological sites!

Turtle Mound is the largest mound in the mainland United States. Today, it's around 35 ft tall but it's estimated to have been well over 50 ft high. During the 19th and 20th century, workers mined middens and shell mounds to use the material as road fill.

The mound is constructed mainly of oyster shell but also includes bones from animals like deer, fish and small game as well as artifacts like ceramic sherds, worked bone and projectile points. The site is thought to date to around AD 800 to 1200.

One of the current concerns at Turtle Mound is erosion. In the past few years, the National Park Service has been experimenting with living shorelines as a way to prevent erosion as well as promote a healthier estuary around Turtle Mound. Living shoreline restoration is a technique that involves using live native species of plants and oysters to create self-sustaining barriers protecting against erosion, wave-attenuation and lose of habitat.

A sign near Turtle Mound explains their living shoreline restoration project.
We also visited Castle Windy, another large shell midden along Mosquito Lagoon. This midden was developed around AD 1200 and was used for around 300 years. It is also constructed from oyster shells and extends almost 300 feet along the shoreline. The midden reaches summits around 17 feet high. During the 1950s, Ripley Bullen work at the site.

Standing in front of one of the last remnants of Eldora.
Our third stop was the State House, the last standing building from the lost community of Eldora. The site was established as a small fruit farming community in 1877 by a few folks from St. Louis, Missouri. A great climate and easy access to the Indian River made an ideal setting for thriving citrus businesses. However, several bad frosts in the mid-1890s killed many of the orchards and as the farmers left, rich vacationers moved in.

Dolly's headstone and photo.
Eldora never recovered and was deserted by the 1920s. Today, only a few structures remain. In the past decade, the NPS had to demolish the Eldora House because it was deemed in too bad of shape. The local community rallied to save the State House, the former residence, of one of the founding families. The structure dates to around 1887 and now serves as an interpretive center.

In the State House are artifacts found at Eldora, salvaged architectural features from buildings no longer standing, and photos from Eldora's heyday. Among these is a headstone from an important resident: Dolly.

To learn more about Canaveral National Seashore, including admission fees, hours of operation and programing, please visit the NPS website.

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