Torreya State Park in Florida
Torreya State Park is located in sunny Florida and plays a critical role in maintaining unique plant and animal species. Two other important roles that the park is known for are; key communities that are of regional importance, and the water quality of the Apalachicola River, which flows into the productive Apalachicola Bay. Torreya State Park and the Apalachicola River are both historic and rich in history.
To find the beginning of Torreya Park’s history, you have to go back to the Civil War. This is when the high bluffs were called home by two hundred Confederate soldiers. As you walk through this park, you can still see where the cannons were placed. It was 1840 when plantation owner Jason Gregory and his family called it home. Jason Gregory’s mansion was three thousand square feet and was originally located on the west bank of the Apalachicola River. However, in the late 1930s, Gregory’s home was given to the Civilian Conservation Corp. On the other hand, this donation comes with a stipulation that the home be dismantled and moved. Civilian Conservation Corp workers began taking the home apart brick by brick and board by board. These planks and bricks were then loaded onto a barge that carried these items to the east coast. It was here that the rebuilding of this old home began and where it stands and can still be seen today.
One of the most populated places in Florida was in the Apalachicola area. Along the lower Apalachicola River Valley, you’ll find an abundance of the earliest sites along former and present shorelines. Along the waterways and river marshes you can find scattered mounds of clam and oyster shells that are the remains of the early inhabitants. In the 1700s, Creek Indians from Georgia and Alabama began to settle along the Apalachicola River. The word Apalachicola comes from the Indian word meaning “people from the other side.” In 1816, one or more battles occurred between American forces and the Creek Indians and their black allies. It is possible that “Bloody Bluff” was the site of these clashes. Black allies of the Creek Indians occupied the “negro fort,” now known as Fort Gadsden, located at nearby Prospect Bluff. During this time, cotton was transported by steamboat from the interior plantations to Apalachicola for export. During the Civil War, however, Union forces formed a barrier on Apalachicola Bay that prevented steamboats from traveling. When the war ended, lumber became the new product for shipping. Mills began to spring up along the Apalachicola River. Millions of board feet of lumber passed through the port of Apalachicola. This lumber comes from longleaf pines and cypresses. The pine trees served a secondary purpose — their sap. The sap was distilled to resin and turpentine, which together became known as naval stocks.
Torreya State Park opened to the public in 1935 and was one of Florida’s original state parks. Credit for the creation of this park goes to the Florida Parks Board and the Civilian Conservation Corporation. No matter what you like about Torreya State Park, whether it’s the Civilian Conservation Corporation’s expert craftsmanship in restoring Jason Gregory’s original home, or stepping into one of its barracks or by the charming stone bridge. Today, Torreya State Park has become one of Florida’s scenic spots because of its high cliffs that overlook the Apalachicola River. The name of Torreya Park comes from one of the oldest and rarest trees. These trees only grow in the ravines and cliffs of Torreya State Park. The Torreya tree became so popular that it almost caused its destruction. In the 1800s, there were approximately six hundred thousand of these trees living in the Apalachicola Valley, but today only about two hundred remain. Around 1835, Florida Torreya was identified by botanist Hardy Brian Krum. Croom gave it this name in honor of the famous scientist, Dr. John Torrey. The tree was well known to the locals as “stinking cedar” because of its strong odor when cut or bruised. The park is well known for its hiking, camping, picnicking and bird watching. More than a hundred species of birds have been observed here. The hardwood trees in this forest display some of the best fall colors in Florida. You can also find the park offering daily tours of Jason Gregory’s reconstructed home.
Regarding the Apalachicola River, it now separates the Eastern and Central time zones. During mid-April or May, if you paddle the quiet creeks and bays, you’ll see a variety of trees and shrubs, including Tupelo, Black Gum, and Titi. Another of your senses that will be activated are your ears as you listen to the loud and steady hum of honey bees. The only place on earth where Tupelo honey is produced is right along the Apalachicola River Valley. In conclusion, you can now see why Torreya State Parks and the Apalachicola River are historic and rich in history.
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