History

The second largest protected forest in Central Florida is the Ocala National Forest, the Everglades is the largest. Teddy Roosevelt established the Ocala National Forest in 1908, a forest where nothing would grow and nobody wanted. It encompasses approximately 3,000 acres with many lakes, rivers, and springs. The Ocala National forest is perfect for the outdoor adventurer.

There is a unique ecosystem consisting of Sand Pine Scrub is an area that has white sandy soil and no nutrients. Water permeates through the sand very quickly leaving the soil dry. Plants and trees do not deep root and they do grow as large as their counterparts.

On November 24, 1908, when President Teddy Roosevelt declared the Ocala area a National Forest in 1908, many people referred to it as “the land nobody wanted.” The land in this area was indeed a harsh, unforgiving place for humans to live.

Roosevelt  designated 202,000 acres of scrub as the Ocala National Forest, creating the first National Forest east of the Mississippi River, and the second National Forest within the continental United States. Today, people enjoy the “many uses” of this lush area, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hunting, camping, and touring historical areas. The Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway shows new generations the route into the heart of wild florida.

In spite of the hardships engendered by settling in this challenging land, the human legacy of the corridor runs deep. Shell middens (mounds of freshwater shelfish remains discarded along river banks by Florida’s prehistoric people) mark village sites of the Timucua, an ancient culture of farmers and hunters that inhabited the region for nearly 10,000 years. These middens would be excavated in the 1890s by archaeologists. They were found to contain some of the earliest pottery and artifacts in North America. Local road builders used the shell to pave early roads, unaware of the significance of middens. Today some remnants of ancient people  remain throughout the region, with burial mounds and middens shaded by ancient live oaks.

In 1765 and again in 1774, botanist William Bartram plied the waters of the St. Johns River and explored the nooks and crannies afforded by its many spring-fed tributaries. Samuel Taylor Coleridge based his epic poem Kubla Khan on the romantic description Bartram gave to Salt Springs, an “amazing crystal fountain…which meanders six miles through green meadows, pouring its limpid waters into the great Lake George,” where within the spring, “white sand and small particles of shells are thrown up with the waters.”

European and American pioneers and traders such as James Spalding created small settlements along the St. Johns and other rivers in the late 1700s. Homesteading in the more fertile lands around the Big Scrub began after the Third Seminole War ended in 1858, and influxes of settlers increased again after the Civil War. By the 1870s, a circuit-riding preacher traversed the trails by horseback, preaching in the communities of Salt Springs, Pat’s Island, Astor, and Paisley. Settlers traveled between these hardscrabble communities by water and horse and wagon.

European and American pioneers and traders such as James Spalding created small settlements along the St. Johns and other rivers in the late 1700s. Homesteading in the more fertile lands around the Big Scrub began after the Third Seminole War ended in 1858, and influxes of settlers increased again after the Civil War. By the 1870s, a circuit-riding preacher traversed the trails by horseback, preaching in the communities of Salt Springs, Pat’s Island, Astor, and Paisley. Settlers traveled between these hardscrabble communities by water and horse and wagon.

Land Nobody Wanted

On November 24, 1908, when President Teddy Roosevelt declared the Ocala area a National Forest in 1908, many people referred to it as “the land nobody wanted.” The land in this area was indeed a harsh, unforgiving place for humans to live.

Roosevelt  designated 202,000 acres of scrub as the Ocala National Forest, creating the first National Forest east of the Mississippi River, and the second National Forest within the continental United States. Today, people enjoy the “many uses” of this lush area, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hunting, camping, and touring historical areas. The Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway shows new generations the route into the heart of wild florida.

Ancient History

In spite of the hardships engendered by settling in this challenging land, the human legacy of the corridor runs deep. Shell middens (mounds of freshwater shelfish remains discarded along river banks by Florida’s prehistoric people) mark village sites of the Timucua, an ancient culture of farmers and hunters that inhabited the region for nearly 10,000 years. These middens would be excavated in the 1890s by archaeologists. They were found to contain some of the earliest pottery and artifacts in North America. Local road builders used the shell to pave early roads, unaware of the significance of middens. Today some remnants of ancient people  remain throughout the region, with burial mounds and middens shaded by ancient live oaks.

Natural Beauty

In 1765 and again in 1774, botanist William Bartram plied the waters of the St. Johns River and explored the nooks and crannies afforded by its many spring-fed tributaries. Samuel Taylor Coleridge based his epic poem Kubla Khan on the romantic description Bartram gave to Salt Springs, an “amazing crystal fountain…which meanders six miles through green meadows, pouring its limpid waters into the great Lake George,” where within the spring, “white sand and small particles of shells are thrown up with the waters.”

Settlements

European and American pioneers and traders such as James Spalding created small settlements along the St. Johns and other rivers in the late 1700s. Homesteading in the more fertile lands around the Big Scrub began after the Third Seminole War ended in 1858, and influxes of settlers increased again after the Civil War. By the 1870s, a circuit-riding preacher traversed the trails by horseback, preaching in the communities of Salt Springs, Pat’s Island, Astor, and Paisley. Settlers traveled between these hardscrabble communities by water and horse and wagon.

The Yearling

European and American pioneers and traders such as James Spalding created small settlements along the St. Johns and other rivers in the late 1700s. Homesteading in the more fertile lands around the Big Scrub began after the Third Seminole War ended in 1858, and influxes of settlers increased again after the Civil War. By the 1870s, a circuit-riding preacher traversed the trails by horseback, preaching in the communities of Salt Springs, Pat’s Island, Astor, and Paisley. Settlers traveled between these hardscrabble communities by water and horse and wagon.