Jefferson County Florida Slave Canal

My friend Ed Green took me through wilderness of the famous Jefferson County Slave Canal in a small boat. I wanted to take pictures, and he knew I was worried about my camera and believed the boat would provide more stability for me than a canoe.

The canal was beautiful, breathtaking at times, but believe me, it was a kayaking or canoe trip, not a boat trip. Although Ed’s boat was small and light, it was too much for the obstacles encountered along the trail.

Slave Canal dug by slaves in 1850s to connect the Wacissa and Aucilla Rivers

Slave Canal dug by slaves in 1850s to connect the Wacissa and Aucilla Rivers

We slid under fallen trees, pushed over big sunken logs and made portages. Someone had done some cutting of fallen trees to open the trail, but they were obviously providing for a small canoe or Kayak not even a boat as small as ours.  I’d go back any time, but I would have to go in a kayak or a small canoe. I’ll just buy a waterproof camera so I don’t have to worry about it.

We put the boat in at Goose Pasture. The sky was brilliant blue and the clouds were mysterious snow white shapes. We had to push through heavy grass just under the surface of the water as we moved the boat along the Wacissa toward the turn to the canal. There are signs where the trail branches off, but you have to watch carefully, it would be easy to lose your way. I was thankful to be with someone who knew the turns.

Wacissa River at Goosepasture

Wacissa River at Goose Pasture

 

I started taking pictures immediately. Shots from the shore alone were worth visiting Goose Pasture landing. As we drifted along the river every scene we passed seemed to be waiting to be photographed. Thank goodness for a digital camera. I would have been sick under the constraints of film.

As we entered the actual Slave Canal Ed pointed out areas of Indian mounds explaining that in this area many of the mounds are very ancient, some even Paleolithic. It was very quiet. We began to see water birds and an occasional gator. There were two or three places where it would have been easy to take a wrong turn, but we managed to stay on the trail.

Great piles of stones, many probably two feet square line one part of the canal. These were piled along the waterway by the hands of men working in this humid, jungle-like environment in the 1850s. It is an impressive sight, worth making the trip through the canal.

We came to the Aucilla along a stretch of water bordered by banks of wildflowers then the cabins and houses of Nutall Rise came into view and we were out of the wilderness.

 

Advertisements

The Road to Monticello, Florida

THE ROAD TO MONTICELLO, FLORIDA

By Anne Haw Holt

Fred Mahan Drive links historic districts in Monticello and Tallahassee, Florida. This road started as a tribal path—became known as the Old Spanish Trail and is now Route 90, once the main east-west route across the state.

Wild woods on west Rt 90 near Lake Miccosuki

Wild woods on west Rt 90 near Lake Miccosuki

In 1935 Mahan’s Nursery of Monticello, one of the largest nurseries in the Southeast, donated thousands of shrubs and trees to beautify the right-of-way along this drive. Jefferson County employed thirty-five men at 30 cents an hour to plant the shrubs, providing desperately needed jobs at a fair rate of pay for the height of the great depression.

The plantings included pyracanth, arbor vitae, crape myrtle, ligustrum and some palm trees. Recent plantings of smaller crape myrtles, from the intersection of I-10 and US 90 east of Tallahassee, to the edge of Monticello, present a spectacular range of brilliant colors throughout the summer months. For most of the year the shrubs are lush and green. In winter their bare cinnamon branches seem a work of art.

Crepe Myrtles in Blossom

Crepe Myrtles in Blossom

By late April and into May each year crape myrtles are covered in deep green leaves. In May the shrubs begin to produce large clumps of conical white flowers followed by old-fashioned “watermelon pinks” and later the gorgeous dark reds. When the crape myrtles are blossoming this two-lane road running east from Tallahassee to the historic City of Monticello, Florida is a never-to-be-forgotten treat, easily the most beautiful drive in Florida.

Local people love this highway. Once a road crew, apparently tired of mowing around bushes, started to use a huge chipping machine to “clear” the shrubbery from both sides of Rt. 90 east of Tallahassee. Late on a Friday afternoon after they cut down and chewed up a few crape myrtles, the men cut the machine off and left for the weekend.

Luckily, a reporter saw the machine devouring the crape myrtles and submitted a story to the local paper. The public outcry was unbelievable. Telephone lines seemed to catch fire from Monticello to Tallahassee to Washington, DC. Angry people called to demand help from their elected representatives to stop the destruction of the crepe myrtles.

Sometime Saturday or Sunday evening, someone cut the hydraulic lines, rendering the valuable machine useless. This action and subsequent news stories plus the frantic, angry telephone calls stopped the destruction and saved this beauty for us.

Please slow down a little and enjoy the show. You will see an occasional sturdy-looking palm tree tucked in behind the crape myrtles. You will even see a few overgrown and badly misshapen arbor vitae, but not a single pyracanth.