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
To protect these treasures, it is illegal for visitors to remove
artifacts from Aucilla.
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.