October « 2013 « verdure
some hiding spots are better than others
Monday, October 14th, 2013

Mike found this tiny ring-necked snake hiding under our front doormat last week.

slither

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the bridges of Ellaville
Monday, October 14th, 2013

In late May we took a three day trip up to North Florida. The roadsides were carpetted in vibrant oranges, pinks and reds. Unfortunately, the wildflowers only liked the places that were disturbed by humans but not mowed regularly, so when we stopped at a rest area, there were no flowers to take pictures of, and the parks we visited weren’t their ideal habitat either.

On the east bank where US 90 crosses the Suwannee, Suwanee River State Park sits at the site of the town of Columbus, established in 1841 (1). “A visitor to Columbus in late 1843 described the town as having two large stores and other mercantile establishments that bought cotton from surrounding counties.” At the time the town had around 500 residents, but

By 1873, however, Columbus had dried up as markets shifted and financial depression hit the United States until only one store remained in the town. The final demise of Columbus became inevitable when George F. Drew, first post-Reconstruction governor of Florida, built a sawmill at his newly established town of Ellaville close to his home across the river in Madison County. (2)

The Columbus Post Office was moved across the river to Ellaville in 1867. but the new town did not prosper for long either. “Ellaville flourished as long as yellow pine lasted. It declined after 1900 and ceased to exist when the Post Office closed in 1942.” (3)

There are three bridges today crossing the Suwannee right next to either other. The railway bridge was defended by “an earthworks mound built during the Civil War to defend the railroad crossing that supplied confederate troops. The Battle of Olustee in February 1864 turned back Union forces heading west to destroy this bridge.” (1) The middle bridge, built as part of the coast-to-coast Old Spanish Trail Highway in 1925-26 and now called Old US 90, ran alongside the old sand road (also called Old Spanish Trail) that was the previous main east-west road through Ellaville.

the four-span through truss bridge is one of the last truss spans surviving along the Old Spanish Trail, and the only one in Florida. Just a year after its construction, a massive flood deluged Ellaville, halting traffic for more than ten days.

The Suwannee River Park Store just west of the river dates to the Old Spanish Trail period. Roadside entrepreneur Henry Charles Noegel constructed the concrete store in 1928. There he operated a Gulf filling station, store, café and post office. Nearby, Noegel’s famous Camp Suwannee, a “campground for vacationists and travelers,” offered free campsites and cottages. Though today without windows or doors, because of its solid construction the former store still stands. (4)

There is a map of Ellaville from the time of the new paved highway and Noegel’s store at the kiosk where the Drew Mansion Ruins Trail and the Florida Trail intersect.

Pictures from Florida Memory (Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Services):
View of Ellaville with Drew sawmill at right (1884)

Railroad bridge between Madison and Suwannee counties in the 1880’s

Labeled as Hillman Bridge, but I believe this is the earlier bridge that the Hillman Bridge replaced (Mike’s guess is circa 1915)

Hillman Bridge over the Suwannee River (1927)

Flooding of the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers at railroad depot – Ellaville, Florida (Aug 1928)

Flooding of the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers at the Hillman Bridge (1928) – Center span of the Hillman Bridge between Madison and Suwannee Counties at Ellaville was dry, but the highway and railroad tracks on the approaches were covered with flood water. Flooding caused all traffic to be stopped for ten days.

The Hillman Bridge was replaced in 1986 by the current US 90 bridge. Although closed to vehicles, pedestrians can still cross it.

weeds

Looking from the Hillman bridge to the railroad bridge (Mike’s)

railroad bridge

rusting

Although the Suwannee River Park Store building still stands, it’s now abandoned. It appears that its last incarnation was as a restarauant, River 90. There is very little else left to mark that this place was once a thriving town of around 1000 people. There are pieces of bricks scattered in the under brush, but the forest has reclaimed pretty much everything. Part of the Drew Mansion Ruins Trail follows the sand Old Spanish Trail:

path

Mike’s creature pictures:

cater

blue

We actually never saw the Drew Mansion Ruins, which were burned in 1970. The caretaker of the park later told us that we should have turned off the trail at the picnic table, and he also told us where the trail to the old springs was. At the end of the trail, we did find the old cemetery. These two said “Mary Amelia daughter of ? Brush born Mar 15, 1873 died Apr 4 187?” and “John Clay Thomas Died Dec 28 1890 aged 42Ys1Mo&20Dys.”

graves

The cemetery was guarded by a skull-painted spider (Arrowshaped Micrathena) (Mike’s)

arrow

(1) Suwannee River State Park Brochure
(2) A brief history of Suwannee County
(3) Florida Historical Marker at Ellaville
(4) Drive the Old Spanish Trail Highway – Florida

And Mike did the photo conversions.

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skimmer
Sunday, October 13th, 2013

There were lots of critters around the two story observation deck at the edge of Sawgrass Lake in mid May. Pretty much all of them were best captured with the 100-400mm, so these are all Mike’s pictures, and he did the conversion as well.

bullfrog

ribbit

marsh rabbit

hoppity

green heron with young alligator behind

chompy

one of a pair of Black-Necked Stilts

legs

I’d think this tactic of flying right above the water with its lower mandible scooping through the water at Sawgrass would yield more water plants than anything else, but we watched this Black Skimmer successfully catch a good sized fish by tracing through the more open tracks in the lake.

scoop

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