Tuesday, October 7, 2014

#57 Buena Vista Landing (100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida)

Buena Vista Landing from the water.
Buena Vista Landing, a small but extraordinarily beautiful park on Lake Seminole, is #57 on my list of 100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida.

Please click here to see the full list as it is unveiled.

If you are not familiar with Buena Vista, it is located off River Road (Highway 271) exactly 14 miles north of U.S. 90 at Sneads. The park was developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of its Lake Seminole project during the late 1950s. It is now managed by the Jackson County Parks Department.

Buena Vista is a paradise for birders.
The park occupies a low ridge that overlooks an arm of Lake Seminole. There has always been water here, but before the completion of the Jim Woodruff Dam in 1958 the stream was known as Sugar Mill Creek. It is now much wider and flows at a slower pace than it did prior to the completion of the dam and creation of the lake.

The elevated ground along the spring-fed stream has attracted human beings for thousands of years. It offered a good place to live above the normal flood levels of the Chattahoochee River with great access to food sources. The creek was rich in fish, shellfish, turtles, alligators and other foods while the surrounding woods and swamps offered bear, deer, possum, rabbits and other game animals. Nuts were plentiful, as were edible plants, roots, fruit and more.

Channel leading from Buena Vista to Chattahoochee River
By around the time of Christ a prehistoric American Indian village began to develop at what is now Buena Vista Landing. The people that lived here were subjects of the Kolomoki chiefdom, a far-flung prehistoric nation centered on a capital city at today's Kolomoki Mounds State Park near Blakely, Georgia.

The Kolomoki chiefdom was part of a culture known today as Weeden Island (also spelled Weedon). Thought by some archaeologists to have been the most powerful chiefdom or nation in the Americas from around AD 400 to AD 900, the Kolomoki people developed advanced knowledge of astronomy, engineering and art. They were exceptional makers of high-quality pottery and tools.

The village stood on the high ground at the top of the ramp.
The village at Buena Vista was a fair-sized Kolomoki town. Long-time residents of the area remember that bulldozers and graders uncovered vast piles of shells as they built the parking area. These shell mounds or middens were created by the people of the village as they enjoyed thousands of meals of shellfish from Sugar Mill Creek.

Archaeologists investigated the site in 1948 and again in 1979. They found broken sherds of prehistoric pottery that helped them to date the village to the Kolomoki era. They also found flint and quartz tools and arrowheads from that time period.

Chattahoochee River arm of Lake Seminole near Buena Vista
While most of the large and important prehistoric site is now covered with asphalt, the natural beauty of its setting can still be enjoyed. The park offers a boat ramp, dock and small picnic area and is a great place for fishing, picnicking, photography and birding. Many of the trees show beautiful colors in the fall and the parking lot area is known for its beautiful redbuds during the spring.

To reach Buena Vista Landing from U.S. 90 at Sneads, travel north for exactly 14 miles and turn right (east) on Buena Vista Road. The road dead-ends at the park.

One note:  Like all such places on Federal lands, the remnants of the archaeological site at Buena Vista are protected by U.S. law.

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