Tosohatchee State Reserve
Backstory and Context
Tosohatchee State Reserve
Tosohatchee State Reserve is home to a wide variety of species in the diverse habitat. It is known for the large selection of wildlife, hiking trails and unique photography opportunities. The marshes are a major waypoint for migrating birds, including bald eagles, hawks and owls. Other species that you may find in the wooded uplands or around the swamps are boar hogs, fox squirrels and alligators. Here, you can also participate in each of the numerous hunting seasons. The State Reserve is between E Colonial Highway (50) and the Beeline Expressway (528.) The property also boarders about nineteen miles of the St. Johns River which happens to be the longest and only river in Florida to flow south to north.
The 310 mile river flows through 12 counties, moving from northeast Florida to the Atlantic Ocean. The lower St. Johns River is an estuary where seawater and freshwater mix, creating brackish (part salt, part fresh) water. As distance between the mouth of the St. Johns and the middle and upper basins increases, the salinity in the river gradually decreases. Though, roughly 100,000 years ago the St. Johns was created due to a land shift, it wasn’t until approximately 5,000-7,500 years ago that it reached its more common form after the last ice age and the sea began to rise. The hydrological cycle of the arid peninsula was transformed, resulting in rains that fed the surface flow of the St. Johns and its underground springs.
Before the arrival of Europeans to Florida, Native American groups, including the Timucua, had called the river home for thousands of years. The Timucua were skilled hunters, fishers and farmers so being close to the waters made it very convenient and practical for them to live. They used a fishing trap called a weir and it was just a wood fence that stretched across the river or stream. There is a broad selection of fish in the rivers and lakes. Although largemouth bass, crappie, bluegills and catfish are typically what is favored, there are also flounder, striped bass, snook and redfish able to be caught as well. They used spears, clubs, bows and arrows, and blowguns, to kill their game. Some of the game that they used for food included bears, deer, wild turkey, and alligators.
The women would clean and prepare the animal hides and use them for clothing. Farming was another important means of obtaining food for the Timucua. The main crops that they harvested were maize (corn), beans, squash, pumpkins, and melons. The women cooked the meals and gathered roots, nuts and wild berries to eat. They also made pottery to use for cooking. During the time period from 1649 through 1656, the population of the Timucuan tribe began to diminish. After many altercations and diseases, the tribe died out and it is believed that those who survived may have later joined the Seminole Tribe. (2008, nbbd.com/godo/tosohatchee/index.html)
In the early 1500s Spanish seamen first mapped the St. Johns River and called the river Rio de Corrientes, River of Currents. In 1562 the French had found the first outpost on the river and call it Ft. Caroline. By 1565 Spanish soldiers marched north from St. Augustine and captured Ft. Caroline, renaming it San Mateo to honor a saint whose feast followed the day of the capture. It later was named Rio de San Juan which translates into St. Johns River after a mission that was located near the river’s mouth.
Tosohatchee is the simplification of the natives name for it, Tootoosaatchee, which means chicken or fowl creek. This was a spot during the second Seminole war in 1837, where Native Americans and Seminole Indians had planned to meet with hopes that the Indians would surrender. The meeting resulted to Chickasaw Hatchee; modern day Taylor Creek and eventually a truce was called. In 1845, the county was renamed from Mosquito County to Orange County.
During the early 1900s, Tosohatchee was known for cattle ranching
and an old ranch house was built in 1917 for the foremen and his family on what
was called Beehead Ranch, now called Beehead road. The name originated from the
overpopulated beehives in the trees. When the ranch was replaced by hunting and
the property was sold to the Tosohatchee Game Preserve, the house was turned
into a hunting club. It was later relocated to Fort Christmas Historical Park
in 1993 to be preserved. Today, the reserve has more than 30,000
acres left to horseback ride, fish, canoe/kayak and go geo catching. Visitors
can also see what is considered the largest stand of cypress forest still left
uncut in the state of Florida. (2008,www.nbbd.com/godo/history/BeeHeadRanch/index.html)
“Bee Head Ranch - Ca: 1993 Christmas, Florida.” Bee Head Ranch - Ca: 1993 - Christmas, Florida, www.nbbd.com/godo/history/BeeHeadRanch/index.html. (accessed last on November 30, 2017)
“Tosohatchee Wildlife Management AreaChristmas, Florida.” Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area - Christmas Florida, nbbd.com/godo/tosohatchee/index.html. (accessed last on November 30, 2017)