St. Joseph Peninsula State Park
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is a 2516 acre park that contains miles of white sand beaches with amazing dune formations located on a peninsula near Port Saint Joe, Florida. Along with beautiful beaches, it contains a heavily forested interior with a favorable climate for exploring year-round. The park is surrounded on two sides by the waters of St. Joseph's Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. In the early 20th century, T.H. Stone erected a bath house so that visitors could stay longer and easily change their clothes. In honor of this development, the park was dedicated as the T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in 1967.
Backstory and Context
At one time, Native Indians lived on the peninsula and enjoyed the plethora of shellfish from the bay's shallow waters. It is believed that the Weeden Island people (ca. A.D. 500-2000) utilized the shellfish, fish, deer and nuts found in the area for food.1 The region became dominated by the Mississippian culture between A.D. 1200-1700 as artifacts have been found developed in and around the Apalachicola River from around A.D. 1000.1
St. Joseph Bay area is one of the best natural bays in the country and it was first reported by the Spaniards who came from Pensacola in 1699. They reported seeing the prow of a shipwreck near the peninsula. The Spaniards named the bay San Joseph de Vallardes in honor of Comte de Moctezuma, they occupied the bay in 1701 in order to prevent their adversaries which included the French from interrupting important supply routes to Pensacola. In the early 1700s, the area was an important battleground between Spanish, British and French interest. In 1719, the Spanish Presidio San Jose built a fortified settlement at the tip of this peninsula. Soldiers and convicts from Cuba, Veracruz and Mexico City which totaled more than 1200 were living in and around the fort. This settlement did not last long as it was abandoned in 1723 and the remaining buildings were dismantled and used to build a presidio in nearby Pensacola.
By 1835, St. Joseph Bay competed with Apalachicola as the most important shipping port of the area. Because of the concerns with shipping safety and the plethora of offshore shoals, St. Joseph's Point Lighthouse was built at the tip of the spit to guide local shipping. Unfortunately, for the area, Apalachicola outcompeted St. Joseph as a shipping port and a terrible epidemic of yellow fever in 1841 further crippled the settlement. In 1844, a crippling hurricane devastated the remaining buildings. St. Joseph's Point Lighthouse was rebuilt but was leveled by yet another hurricane in 1851. By 1898, this lighthouse was ultimately dismantled and relocated across St. Joseph's Bay at Beacon Hill, directly opposite where the original lighthouse once stood.
Before the area was purchased for development as a state park, it was used as a U.S. Army training facility for gunnery and bombing practice during World War II. After the Korean War, the U. S. Army Reserve took over the remaining military lands for training exercises in 1962 and 1963. In 1967, St. Joseph Peninsula State Park opened up as a Florida State Park.
The park is enjoyed by beach lovers, bird watchers and all types of naturalists. It represents an undeveloped Florida that cannot be easily found in most of Florida. The park offers a variety of accommodations for park visitors including 7 cabins and 119 campsites with water and electric hookups.
1. SAINT JOSEPH PENINSULA STATE PARK. State Parks. Accessed November 24, 2017. http://www.stateparks.com/saint_joseph_peninsula_state_park_in_florida.html.
2. T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, FL. Reserve America. Accessed November 24, 2017. https://floridastateparks.reserveamerica.com/camping/th-stone-memorial-st-joseph-peninsula-state-par....
3. Welcome to T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. Florida State Parks. Accessed November 24, 2017. https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/St-Joseph.
4. Friends of St Joseph State Parks. Accessed November 25, 2017. http://friendsofstjosephpeninsulastatepark.org.
5. ST. JOSEPH PENINSULA STATE PARK. Absolutely Florida. Accessed November 25, 2017. http://www.abfla.com/parks/StJoseph/stjoseph.html.