Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Jackson County Spanish Heritage Trail is now complete!

Interpretive Panel at Mission San Carlos site
The new Jackson County Spanish Heritage Trail is complete!

The trail is a 150-mile driving tour that takes visitors to eleven unique Spanish colonial sites in Jackson County, including the sites of Spanish missions, historic American Indian villages, noted landmarks and a surviving trace of the real Old Spanish Trail. It begins and ends at the historic Russ House & Visitor Center at 4318 Lafayette Street in Marianna.

You can pick up a free guide booklet at the Russ House that features information and photographs of each site, a map of the entire drive and directions to each of its stops. The booklets are available from a display stand on the porch when the visitor center is closed.

Blue Springs in Jackson County, Florida
To give you a brief overview, the driving tour leaves the Russ House and stops first at historic and scenic Blue Springs, the only first magnitude spring in the Chipola River basin and landmark noted in reports and journals by early Spanish explorers. Also at Blue Springs is Tour Stop #2, the Original Old Spanish Trail. An interpretive kiosk points out an original section of the Old Spanish Trail and describes its significance.

Canopy oaks along Reddoch Road
From Blue Springs, the tour follows Reddoch Road to State Highway 69 north of Grand Ridge. This section of modern roadway follows the original trace of the Old Spanish Trail and as you drive beneath its canopy oaks, you will be following a path that Spanish explorers used as early as 1674. From the intersection of Reddoch Road and Highway 69, the trail turns south to Grand Ridge and U.S. 90, today's "new" Old Spanish Trail. It follows U.S. 90 through Sneads to the eastern edge of the county and the Jim Woodruff Dam Overlook on the west bank of Lake Seminole.

View of Mission San Carlos site (bottom) and Lake Seminole
The Overlook is the site of Mission San Carlos, a Spanish mission that served Christian members of the Chatot (or Chacato) tribe from 1680-1696. During these years it was the westernmost Spanish settlement in all of Florida. An interpretive kiosk on the shores of the lake tells the story of the mission and its tragic destruction by Creek Indian raiders in 1696.

The tour then leads back along U.S. 90 to Sneads and up River Road past Three Rivers State Park and through the beautiful Apalachee Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Drivers enjoy stunning views of Lake Seminole and the many waterfowl that flock to the WMA. Picnic areas can be found along the route at Three Rivers, Parramore Landing Park and Buena Vista Landing.

Chattahoochee River at site of Ekanachatte
The next stop is at Neal's Landing Park on the banks of the Chattahoochee River. An interpretive panel here tells the story of Ekanachattee ("Red Ground"), a Creek Indian village established during the 1760s. British soldiers stopped here in 1778 as the American Revolution raged and many of the town's chiefs and warriors volunteered to join the British in their fight against the American colonists in Georgia. Ekanachatte remained an important town during the Second Spanish Era (1783-1821) and was one of the bases of the notorious pirate and adventurer, William Augustus Bowles.

Section of Old Pensacola-St. Augustine Road near Malone
From Neal's Landing the tour takes drivers west along State Highway 2, which follows the general route of the original Pensacola-St. Augustine Road. This early trail was first mapped by a British military expedition in 1778 and is believed to be the trail that famed pioneer and explorer Daniel Boone followed during his long walk across Florida!  An interpretive panel that tells the story of the early road can be found at Veterans Park on State Highway 71 in Malone.

Campbellton Baptist Church
From Malone the drive continues west on State Highway 2 across the Forks of the Creek swamps to Campbellton Baptist Church, the oldest Baptist church in Florida still in continuous use. The existing structure dates to the 1850s and was a landmark of the Civil War's raid on Marianna. It was founded in the 1820s by a congregation that included a number of men and women who came and settled in the Campbellton area in 1819-1820 when Florida was still part of Spain. This Spring Creek settlement grew to become the modern town of Campbellton and an interpretive kiosk on the grounds of the church tells its story. A second historical marker provides details on the history of the church itself.

Heritage Village at Baptist College of Florida
Leaving Campbellton, the tour continues west on State Highway 2 to Graceville and the outstanding Heritage Village on the campus of the Baptist College of Florida. This landmark historic preservation effort features an array of beautifully restored historic structures maintained by the college. Individual structures include churches, homes, a log cabin, a one-room school, a syrup shed and more. The interpretive panel on the grounds tells the story of the Chatot (Chacato) Revolt of 1675, an uprising against the Spanish by part of the Chatot tribe. Led by the old chief Dioscale, Chatot and Chisca warriors drove the Spanish out of Jackson County but in turn were defeated by a Spanish military raid.

Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail
From Graceville the tour follows Highway 2 back to Campbellton and then turns south on U.S. 231. From 231 it turns east on Highway 162 (Jacob Road) and continues on to the next stop, the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail. This interpretive nature trail leads to Florida's oldest and most haunted bridge! The historic bridge, which turns 100 years old this year, stands at the site where it is believed that Spanish explorer Marcos Delgado crossed the Chipola River in 1686. Multiple interpretive panels along the trail detail its history and as you walk its 1/2 mile length you experience a hardwood floodplain forest that has been restored to feature the trees and plants that Spanish explorers found growing in Jackson County during the 1600s.

Tunnel Cave at Florida Caverns State Park
After enjoying the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail, you continue east on Highway 162 to the Old U.S. Road which leads south to Caverns Road and Florida Caverns State Park. The park features Florida's only public tour cave and is rich in history. The original Old Spanish Trail crossed the Chipola River via the natural bridge that can still be seen in the park. The Army of Major General Andrew Jackson crossed the river on this geological feature in 1818 as the First Seminole War raged during the Second Spanish Era (1783-1821). The park visitor center features displays on its geology and history.

Mission San Nicolas interpretive panel
From Florida Caverns State Park the trail returns to U.S. 90 at Marianna, continues west through downtown and then turns north on State Highway 73 to the next stop at the intersection of Highway 73 and Union Road. This interpretive kiosk tells the story of Mission San Nicolas, a Spanish church complex established in 1674 at the mouth of a large cave. The precise site has never been found, but it was at one of the numerous caves in this vicinity.

Fernandez de Florencia interpretive panel at Cottondale
From the Mission San Nicolas stop, the trail continues on to U.S. 231 and turns south to Cottondale and the final stop at the parking area behind Cottondale City Hall. This interpretive panel details the 1676 Fernandez de Florencia expedition, a military raid that passed through Jackson County en route to an attack on a Chisca Indian fort in today's Walton or Okaloosa Counties. The expedition passed across the site of Cottondale, following an old trail that led southwest into what is now Washington County.

After enjoying Cottondale, take U.S. 90 east back to Marianna and the end of the tour!  For more information, pick up the new free guide at the historic Russ House and be sure to visit:

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