Sunday, March 23, 2014

Wekiwa Springs, early morning.  Photo by K. Gidusko

Step back in time at Wekiwa Springs

Florida Archaeology Month 2014 is in full swing and we've had the chance to visit many great places and spread the good word on Florida's deep archaeological past.  FAM 2014 is celebrating the archaeology of Florida's first people, the paleoindians, and highlighting two unique archaeological sites that have provided information on these people; Little Salt Spring and Warm Mineral Springs.  Both of these sites are a little ways from our area, but did you know that we too have some stunning spring sites that you can visit thanks to the Florida State Parks system?

Wekiwa Springs State Park encompasses nearly 7,00 acres of rivers, wetlands, and pine uplands.  There is ample space for picnics and the constant 72-degree water (over 42 million gallons flow from the spring daily!) in the spring makes it a
nice, refreshing way to spend a free day this spring.  Over 13 miles of trails are available for hiking, horseback riding, or biking.  Rent or bring your own canoe or kayak to take a trip down the Wekiva river, a gently flowing river that's great for beginners or those of us who just want to take it slow.

People have utilized the river systems and spring sites of Eastern Florida for thousands of years.  The slow-moving, spring-fed rivers provided plenty of resources for the native peoples inhabiting the area.  Fish, turtles, alligators, shellfish., and plenty more enabled large populations to exist here from around the late-archaic period until the time of contact with Europeans. 

Florida was long one of the least populous states in the southern U.S.  However, after the Civil War the area attracted attention from tourists,especially from the North, who believed that the springs in Florida provided healing properties for an array of ailments.  The picture to the right shows Wekiwa Spring as it would have looked in the early part of the 20th century.  The surrounding forests were used for logging and a few turpentine camps operated in the area as well.

In 1941 the Wilson Cypress Company sold the land that surrounds Wekiwa Springs to the Apopka Hunt Club.  The Club used the land for hunting and fishing activities until the state purchased the land in 1969 and the next year opened the area as Wekiwa Springs State Park.  

We recently had the opportunity to assist in the Wekiwa E.C.O. Day (Environmental Curriculum Outreach) which brought a group of elementary students to the park and educated about the anatomy of a spring, pollution, pyrogenic landscapes and cultural resources of the area.  We had a chance to talk about the bio-technology the native peoples used to thrive in the area for thousands of years.  A lot of this information can be found in FPAN'sTimucuan Technology curriculum.  Be sure to check it out for tons of great information and fun activities you can try out at home.  We ended our talk with some chocolate chip cookie excavation to drive the point home that professional archaeologists work hard to preserve and investigate information on provenience at archaeological sites.  The kids learned how important it was to preserve these sites and how they can help to be good stewards of these resources.  

So this FAM 2014 get out and enjoy some of the great cultural resources that are in our backyards!  Take some time to appreciate the Florida of yesterday and learn how important it is that we all work together to preserve these precious sites for future generations.

Text and Pics: Kevin Gidusko
Historic Pics: Florida State Parks


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