HIDDEN SPRINGS OF THE WEKIVA
Several of Florida’s most remote freshwater springs will be the subject of a Friends of the Wekiva River field trip at 9 a.m. Saturday, January 31. Nature writer and FOWR board member Bill Belleville will lead the trip in the Seminole State Forest. Forest Ranger Mike Martin will explain more about the state forest and its habitats and wildlife. Participants will learn about the role these springs play in enhancing the biological diversity of the Wekiva region. Some of these spring are off of trails. Others exist deeper in the subtropical woods and swamps of the state forest. The springs include Mocassin, Sharks Tooth, Boulder and Helene as well as the restored Palm Springs. All of the springs feed into the Blackwater Creek, a major tributary of the Wekiva. Many of them come to life at the base of the massive two-square mile tract of scrub mapped as Sulphur Island. Of some 1,000 springs in Florida, there are at least 35 within the Wekiva Basin. Many contain endemic animals, such as snails. Others are repositories for prehistoric fossils.
The trip is limited to 50 participants. The springs “walkers” are to meet in the parking lot just to the west of the entrance road to the state forest on the north side of State Road 46, just west of the Wekiva bridge. The trip will last about three hours. Comfortable walking shoes, insect repellant, and drinking water are recommended. There is no charge, except for the state’s $2 entrance fee. For more information, contact Carole Hinshaw 407-804-0368. Glad we are underway with this!
Field Trip to Twin Mounds
In spite of a gloomy weather prediction, 45 eager hikers of all ages turned out
to reach this prehistoric Native American site. The site, largely created by
freshwater snail shells which were consumed over a period of 3,500 years, is one
of the most significant archaeological sites in the larger Wekiva River Basin.
When we came upon the first mound, it just looked like a rise in the earth,
covered by leaves, vines, and snail shells. As we gathered around, Bill
Belleville, FOWR Board member and author, began revealing its fascinating
history. He transported us back in time to when the ocean waters covered
Florida, and then described the gradual evolution of life in the Wekiva Basin.
By holding a large piece of a fossilized mastodon bone Bill had brought along,
we were able to gain a more realistic picture of the hairy beast’s massive size
and of the tenacity of the Native Americans of the Paleocene era who hunted the
mastodons, giant sloths, and other now-extinct animals who once lived here.
Some 12,000-14,000 years ago, the Paleo-Indians roamed a peninsula that was
cool, arid and twice as large as it is today. As the last Ice Age ended, and
more water went into the sea, the peninsula was closer to the size it is now.
More rain fell, more rivers and swamps were created, and more springs came to
life. The renewed water cycle sparked the biological diversity of plants and
animals in Florida, and particularly within the Wekiva. As a result, the
Native Americans here didn’t have to constantly roam for food and water. With
more time to consider their place in the cosmos, they began to ponder
spirituality and myth---and their once-plain pottery begin was incised with more
intricate designs that reflected that more complex culture.
Of the two dozen shell midden sites on public land in the Wekiva Basin, Twin
Mounds and “Shell Island” upstream near the Wekiva Landing, have received most
of the attention by archaeologists such as Dr. Brent Weisman of USF and Dr.
Marilyn Stewart of Rollins College.
As we walked to the second mound nearby, the sun broke out giving us a
spectacular view of autumn at the edge of the Wekiva River. Except for the
first-growth cypress that has since been logged, the subtropical wilderness
around the Mounds looked much as it did when it was occupied several thousand
years ago. The trek back to our cars, by foot and tram, allowed time to reflect
on the significance of the shell middens-- and to appreciate the value in
preserving and protecting this ancient site where our geographical ancestors
once lived. - Weegie Henry