Uncategorized archaeological sites, Archaeologist, Archaeology, Artifacts, Aucilla River, canal construction, canoe, challenge, Civil War, Cotton, cotton barges, Cotton Merchant, deadfalls, Florida, Florida Archaeology, Florida History, florida public archaeology netowrk, Goose Pasture, gulf of mexico, History, intermediate paddle, John Gamble, Kayak, Native Americans, nature, North Florida, paddling, Plantation, Slave, Slave Canal, Southeast, Tourism, Wacissa River
This past weekend, like I mentioned in my previous post, I had the opportunity to paddle the Wacissa River and the Slave Canal. It was something I had heard about and have wanted to do for awhile now, but something always came up that took priority to a day of kayaking (very unfortunate, I know!). Well, my brief encounter with the beautiful waters of the Wacissa and the historic setting of the Slave Canal has left me wanting more!
|Slave Canal Entrance from the Wacissa River
Now, you are probably wandering what the Slave Canal is and why it is named such. The Slave Canal was constructed in the 1850s using slave labor. John Gamble, a nearby plantation owner decided it would be a benificial project for local cotton merchants. The purpose of the canal was to connect the Wacissa River to the nearby Aucilla River so that cotton barges could be floated to the Gulf. You see, the Wacissa River diffuses into an almost impenetrable swamp, impossible for cotton barges to pass through to get to the Gulf of Mexico so that the cotton could be loaded on to larger ships for export. Unfortunately for the cotton merchants, the canal scheme did not work very well-it was too shallow. In some places the canal never reached more than a foot deep, and the canal was never able to be used by large boats. Shortly after the Civil War the canal was abandoned.
|Signage for Slave Canal
Luckily for us adventurous types, the canal remains open today as a premier three mile paddling trail connecting the Aucilla and Wacissa Rivers-that is, if you can find it. The entrance to the canal can be a bit tricky to find (there are signs though, so keep an eye out). Once you do find it though, you are in for a treat. The deadfalls and swift current at high water create a somewhat challenging, but delightful paddling trip. The Slave Canal is part of the Wacissa River Paddling Trail. According to the trail guide it is an intermediate paddle. I only had a chance to kayak a small portion of the canal, but I already have plans in the works to kayak the whole thing. Paddling is a wonderful way to experience, not only nature, but history as well. There is no documentation of who the slaves were that constructed the canal, but kayaking the canal somehow brings to light the challenges that they must have faced.
In addition to the history of the Slave Canal, don’t forget about the people that made their homes on these waterways long before the canal’s construction. The wonderful thing about the Wacissa and Slave Canal is that there are no houses or buildings visible from the river starting from Goose Pasture (where I launched ) to the Slave Canal. It is almost as if you are kayaking into a time long, long ago. You can almost imagine people paddling in dugout canoes along this stretch of remote wilderness. And remember, you may encounter archaeological sites along these waterways, you can look, but don’t touch. Leave any artifacts you might encounter where they are so that the next visitor can enjoy looking at them (and not picking them up) and so that archaeologists in the future can have the opportunity to study them and learn about the people that lived along these rivers in Florida’s past. Hopefully my future plans for kayaking the whole canal will come to fruition soon, and of course, I will tell you all about it!
This past weekend I met a wonderful group of people. Myself, along with members of the Panhandle Archaeological Society at Tallahassee and the FWC, worked with a Boy Scout troop and their fathers to clean up a Native American mound and do some shovel testing. The only way to get to this site is by boat. There was frost on my kayak as I unloaded it and put it in the water! It was a beautiful paddle trip though, but I was glad that I had my heavy jacket. It is always a great day when you can combine kayaking and archaeology into a single adventure! Even if it is super cold outside!
This particular mound had been heavily looted in the past, and while cleaning up the mound to get it ready for mapping, the boys were finding artifacts on the surface. The FWC would like to do some public interpretation of the mound, and allow the public to visit it so that they can combine paddling and archaeology together into some of their adventures as well! So we didn’t want to leave any artifacts on the surface that might encourage looting. The boys were genuinely shocked that people would even consider looting an archaeological site. They were concerned that allowing the public to visit the mound might encourage even more looting. We discussed how public education is our greatest weapon against such destructive activities. We told them that by teaching the public about the mound and what archaeologists can learn from intact sites, that the hope is they will gain a greater appreciation for these sites and be less inclined to loot and more inclined to act as stewards of these sites.
It is always such a treat to meet a group of people, especially children, that are concerned with issues such as this. It gives me great hope for the future of archaeology and the many issues it faces, including looting. Who knows where they young men will end up in the future. Even if they never become archaeologists, I know that they will always be great stewards of our archaeological resources. Some people wonder why we do public education in archaeology. Well, it is for just this reason. The more we can educate the public, the better protected Florida’s archaeological resources will be in the future! You can check out all the photos from our day’s adventure on our facebook page at
So, we are going to try this again. Some of you might be aware that we previously had a blog, “Archaeology Gone Public”, but I was not completely satisfied with it. So, here we go again!
We are turning over a new leaf at the North Central Region. It is very appropriate since we are now moved in to our new office. Our office is now located at 1022 DeSoto Park Drive Tallahassee, FL. 32301. You can give me a call at 850-877-2206. Our building was originally the “Carriage House”, or garage and home of the driver for Governor Martin. If you are familiar with the Martin House, we are located in the little white house next to the gravel parking lot. Come by and visit me sometime!
Some of you might be familiar with the Martin House because is located at the site of the DeSoto Encampment. More to come on that later! Keep an eye out for more posts! I get busy around here, but my goal is to post about every other week. Check back to learn about exciting opportunities and information about sites you can visit in our region. Plus, I am sure to post about some of my FPAN adventures, as there are quite a few! Also, your feedback is welcomed and greatly appreciated, so come by, give me a call or email me at email@example.com
whenever the urge strikes you! So, like I said, here we go again!