People have long been attracted to the Aucilla and Wacissa rivers. Hunting and fishing have always been part of the land's history. For over 12,000 years Indians made use of the river systems for hunting and fishing without adversely affecting the water quality of the rivers or the natural productivity of the rivers and the surrounding lands. State archeologists have found a treasure trove of prehistoric records in these rivers and along their shores. 
To protect these treasures, it is illegal for visitors to remove artifacts from Aucilla.

Photo of arrowheads
Harley and Ryan Means
Native American artifacts from the Aucilla and Wacissa rivers. Arranged chronologically from left to right, they are Clovis (spear point), Bolen, Kirk, and Newnan (knives), Lafayette and Hernando (projectile points, probably thrown with the aid of an atlatl), and Pinellas (a true arrowhead shot with a bow).

When the first Floridians arrived, the climate was drier and the sea level lower than today. Dry land extended miles into what is now the Gulf of Mexico. Water levels were also lower in rivers and lakes. Throughout the length of where the Aucilla runs today was a series of separate sinkholes. These sinkholes were a major source of freshwater, and mastodons and other large animals congregated around them to drink. Known today as Paleoindians, north Florida's first inhabitants hunted for big game around these watering holes with chert spear points attached to ivory shafts. In 1993, archeologists from the University of Florida recovered a 7.5-foot mastodon tusk from the site along the Aucilla River. Eight long cut marks at the point where the tusk emerged from the skull indicated that it had been removed from the skull by humans. Radiocarbon dated the tusk at 12,200 years ago, one of the earliest records of human activity in North America.

As the climate changed-it became wetter and forests replaced grasslands-the Indians adapted. They became more sedentary, hunting deer and other animals in the forests and fishing and gathering freshwater snails along the rivers.

By 400 AD, villages arose and people constructed burial and other mounds. Archeologists refer to this cultural tradition as Weeden Island, after the same type of site found in Tampa Bay. In the spring of 1902 and again in 1918, Philadelphian Clarence Moore excavated two Weeden Island mounds along the Aucilla River. These mounds were associated with a nearby village. Moore uncovered numerous burials containing skeletal remains as well as ceramic burial goods including a human effigy vessel with a headdress that may represent the nubs of new deer antlers, a turkey vulture vessel, a dog head effigy, and a crested bird vessel.

Early in the 20th century, cypress was removed from the swamps along trams constructed for railroads. Today some of these trams provide raised roadways for vehicles while others are pathways for hikers and bikers as well as for wildlife. Longleaf pine was also harvested from the uplands. After which, slash pine and sand pine were planted for pulpwood.

In 1988, Florida obtained the core property (~14,000 acres).  Since then other acquisitions were made in 2000 and 2003 from St. Joe Timberland Company.



FWC Facts:
Within 24 hours of hatching, young whooping cranes can follow their parents away from the nest. Together, they forage for plants, insects, snakes, frogs and small animals.

Learn More at AskFWC