Friday, February 26, 2016

Park Pick: Blue Spring State Park

"Please Take Nothing but Pictures; Leave Nothing but Footprints"
The beginning of the boardwalk trail at Blue Spring State Park. 

It was an absolutely beautiful day outside today in Central Florida! I decided to take full advantage of the beautiful weather and pay a visit to Blue Spring State Park in Orange City. This Park truly has it all: beautiful natural landscape, a great historical site, and archaeological significance. I am excited to be able to share a little bit about the Park with you for this "Park Pick"!

Peering down from the boardwalk into the clear blue-green water of the spring. 

Blue Spring State Park is a gorgeous example of natural Florida landscape. The park features a crystal-clear spring that flows into the St. Johns River. The constant 73-degree temperature of the spring’s water make the spring a favorite winter haven for manatees. Although the spring is open for swimming in the summer, the Park closes swimming access in the winter to make way for these gentle giants. According to the Park’s website, hundreds of manatees can be viewed from the boardwalk that spans the length of the spring. Today was no exception; take a peek at this lovely little guy who swam right up to the boardwalk to take a breath of fresh air!

Hello little manatee! 
In addition to being stunningly beautiful, Blue Spring State Park is a significant historical and archaeological site. I was fortunate to be able to check out The Historic Thursby House on my visit. In 1856, Louis Thursby, a former gold-rush prospector who turned to growing oranges, purchased Blue Spring and moved into the area with his family. Thursby’s “Blue Spring Landing” became a prosperous steam-boat landing that aided in moving tourists and trade goods around Florida. The Historic Thursby House was constructed in 1872, on top of a Native American shell mound. Visitors to the park can walk through the first-floor of the historic house for a self-guided tour.

The Historic Thursby House was built in 1872 by Louis Thursby.
The House sits on top of a prehistoric Native American shell mound. 
Inside the Thursby House, visitors can read about the Thursby family and see various antiques, historical records, and artifacts from the site.

A wood-burning stove inside one of the first-floor rooms within the Historic Thursby House.
A lovely display of fine dishes on display within The Historic Thursby House.

      The Precolumbian mound known as the Thursby Mound at Blue Spring is a "truncated cone" that measures thirteen feet high and is approximately 90 feet in diameter. Excavations by archaeologist C.B. Moore in the nineteenth century demonstrated that the mound dates to the St. Johns IIb period (A.D. 1050-1513). Some of the artifacts discovered at this site include plant and animal effigies and a number of unique and unusual vessels. During the St. Johns IIb period, a shell causeway would have led from the mound to the St. Johns River. (Milanich, 1994). 

A framed poster near The Historic Thursby House shows examples of the artifacts that were recovered during archaeological excavations in the area during the nineteenth century.

  After visiting The Historic Thursby House, you can walk along the boardwalk which leads all the way up to the head spring. It is a great walk, most of the the boardwalk is covered by natural Florida hammock. Informative covered posters punctuate the walk, providing information to curious visitors about the history of the area, the wildlife that can be observed there, and the natural mechanics of the spring itself. 

This trail is a nice walk through natural Florida hammock and leads to the head spring.

This picture hardly does justice to the beauty of this park!
This was taken from a landing that connects to the boardwalk trail. 
Hello little guy! This raccoon was hanging out just below the boardwalk I was on. 
     After this Park visit, I was reminded once again that Central Florida is full of historical and natural treasures. I highly encourage anyone who has a free afternoon to check out this lovely park and to read up on Central Florida history to learn about the early settlers within the region.


For information on the park: 

For information about the Thursby House: 

The Historic Thursby House in the media (short article)

To learn more about the Native Americans who lived in this region during the St. Johns IIb period and beyond, check out the book "Archaeology of Precolumbian Florida" by Jerald T. Milanich.



References:

https://www.floridastateparks.org/sites/default/files/Division%20of%20Recreation%20and%20Parks/documents/bls-brochure.pdf

Archaeology of Precolumbian Florida. Jerald T. Milanich. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida. 1994

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