Welcome to Part 8 (of 10) of Roaming the Red Hills, which originally aired on the April 14 episode of WFSU’s Local Routes. Through ten 3-minute videos, we’ll explore the natural soul of the Red Hills of Florida and Georgia, from the pine uplands down to its rivers, lakes, and farms. Thanks to Tracy Horenbein for creating original compositions for this video series. The series is narrated by Jim McMurtry.
We dive into the Wacissa River with a team of scuba-diving archeologists. What did they find? And what do their findings mean within the larger picture of prehistoric Florida? Read on. Big thanks to David Ward and Robert Daniels of the Aucilla River Group for helping us arrange the shoot and transporting the crew to the site. And thanks to Hot Tamale, whose music is featured in the video.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU-TV
Some time ago, possibly about 12,000 years or so, a group of hunters stopped by the Wacissa River and made some tools. They’re not likely to have self-identified as members of the Suwannee culture group, though that’s how archeologists classify them based on the way they crafted their spear points. These paleolithic humans left a mess of bone and rock on what may or may not have been a riverbank at the time. That refuse is of interest to Morgan Smith, a PhD. student at Texas A & M University. Continue reading Underwater Archeology | Excavating the Wacissa River→
The video for this EcoAdventure will air in September as part of a new WFSU program. What segments will air alongside this and other EcoAdventures? That wasn’t a rhetorical question. Come in and have a meal, on us, here at the station. We want this to feel like your show, and we’re listening to your suggestions. Conversations start in two weeks. Spots are limited; we want small groups so that we can hear what you have to say. Visit the WFSU Listens page to sign up for one of five sessions.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU-TV
We were traveling down an undisclosed section of the Wacissa River. Robert Daniels, the retired Florida Fish and Wildlife game warden who transported us in his jon boat, thought our hosts should have been less explicit in describing their location. He preferred to say “the Aucilla River basin” on camera. He was taking us to an archeological site being excavated under the clear water of the river, and he’s fiercely protective of the watershed’s sites. There are dozens of them in the spring-fed Wacissa and black water Aucilla, many of which, along with other Florida sites, are challenging notions about early human settlement in North America. Robert worries about looters, and it’s a legitimate concern. He caught his fair share of them while working with FWC. Continue reading Archeology on the Wacissa: Solving Underwater Mysteries→
Video: We travel down the Aucilla River, the eastern boundary of the Red Hills region, the dark water of which preserves some of the nation’s oldest archeological sites. It’s also a challenging kayak and canoe trail.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU-TV
Until paddling the Aucilla River during the production of this video, I had never had to portage on a river. For non-paddlers, portage is when you take your canoe or kayak out of the water to navigate around an obstacle. And on that day, there were plenty of obstacles. The Aucilla River Paddling Trail Guide recommends the river be paddled by those with intermediate to advanced skills. Fallen trees and river bends, sometimes in a tricky proximity, had us pivoting at sharp angles. This was less of a challenge for the three kayakers on our trip, but David Ward and I each ferried a photographer on heavier canoes. If you’re looking for a Florida river on which to peacefully coast, this isn’t it. This is a more adventurous river; and one with thousands of years of human usage. Continue reading Canoeing the Aucilla: A Red Hills River Steeped in History→
Much like Slave Canal connects the Aucilla and Wacissa Rivers, this post serves as a bridge between our oyster reef and salt marsh videos (not that we’re done talking about Apalachicola by a long shot). One of my favorite things on this blog is when we can make connections between rivers and the coast. Of course, rivers provide much needed nutrients and fresh water to the estuarine ecosystems I just mentioned. But to the many cultures that predate european settlement of our area, they served as the equivalent of Woodville or Crawfordville Highway. It’s how they got to their Forgotten Coast seafood.
Slave Canal is one of those places I started hearing about a lot when we started doing our EcoAdventure videos. As soon as you get into the braided channels of the lower Wacissa, it’s easy to see why it’s one of the popular river expeditions in north Florida. You’re paddling in a canopied river swamp where people have been paddling for several thousand years. And minus some old growth cypress trees that have been logged in the last century or so, it looks much the same as it did when various native groups made use of the waterway to make seafood runs to the coast. But it doesn’t look quite as it did when people first got there. Continue reading Paleo River Adventure on Slave Canal→
When researching the Green Guide videos I was producing for EcoAdventures North Florida, I became intrigued by something I saw on the Palmetto Expeditions web site. Cynthia Paulson’s Green Guide brokering business offered tours based on history and archeology. I have an interest in local history and archeology, but I was surprised that it qualified as ecotourism. It turns out that historical excursions are a common form of ecotourism, as it focuses on local culture. And our local culture is often intertwined with the ecology of the area.
While the focus of this site is of course the science and ecology of our coastal habitats, we do like to occasionally look at the people, the culture, and the history of the area. This of course leads us back to those habitats, from which people on the Forgotten Coast have fed themselves and made a living for thousands of years.
The Big Bend Maritime Center is an ongoing project of Florida Foresight, which is a non-profit organization that incorporated in 2002. Their vision is for balanced economic, environmental and social development of Florida’s coastal communities. Maritime museums have proven popular in other parts of the coastal United States, so it makes sense that with the rich maritime heritage of Florida’s Big Bend and no current interpretations in the area, one might thrive here, as well. In speaking with Bill Lowrie and Pam Portman, it became clear to me that this is a project they truly believe in and they have a real grasp of the obstacles they face as this project moves forward. They are very serious about this being more than a museum. Besides being an eco-tourism draw…it should be a center of local civic activity, an educational resource for area schools and a haven to preserve local maritime traditions before they fade into history. It will still be a couple of years before this effort starts to bear visible returns, but I think it may be a real gem when it’s done and I look forward to seeing it become a reality.
Thanks to Del Suggs for letting us use some of his music on the piece. The song he’s playing at the end of the piece is Magic Chair. Here he is playing the song at the WFSU studios in 1989: