The Apalachicola region has been populated since the first Floridians arrived 12-14,000 years ago. Numerous aboriginal sites are found along old meanders and along the present banks in the lower Apalachicola River valley. Scattered throughout the estuary and river swamps are clam and oyster shell middens. Creek Indians from Georgia and Alabama began settling along the river in the early 1700s. "Apalachicola" is an Indian word for "the people on the other side." For the most part, the river today separates Eastern and Central time zones.

Creek Indian village
Florida Photo Archives
Creek Indian village on the Apalachicola River, 1839.
Drawing by Francis Castelnau.

Photo of Apalachicola, Florida during the log boom
Florida Photo Archives
Log boom at Apalachicola, 1896

Bloody Bluff may have been the site of one or more skirmishes fought during 1816 between American Forces and Creek Indians and their Black allies who occupied the "Negro Fort" (now called Ft. Gadsden) at nearby Prospect Bluff.

During the 1830s and 1840s increasing numbers of steamboats shipped cotton from inland plantations to Apalachicola for export. The blockade of Apalachicola Bay by Union forces during the Civil War effectively stopped steamboat travel. After the war, lumber became the dominant cargo.

Sawmills sprang up along the river, and millions of board feet of longleaf pine and cypress passed through the port of Apalachicola. Pines were also sought for their sap, which was distilled into turpentine and rosin and known collectively as naval stores.

Within the Apalachicola River WEA are the sites of a historic town and camps associated with the turpentine industry. The town of Creels consisted of a church, a commissary, housing for workers, storage or processing points, and barns for horses and livestock.

Apalachicola Bay oysters
Florida Photo Archives
Two large oysters from Apalachicola Bay

The famous Apalachicola oyster industry began in the later part of the 19th century, and by 1896, three oyster-canning factories were shipping 50,000 cans of oysters each day.

In 1946, Congress passed the River and Harbor Act, which authorized the Corps of Engineers to maintain a 100-ft by 9-ft channel in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint system from Apalachicola to Columbus, Georgia. The dredging of the channel and disposal of dredged material along the banks degrade habitat. Fisheries biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have documented a 75-percent reduction in the sport fish population in areas covered with the dredged sand. Today a movement is underway to have Congress de-authorize the Apalachicola as a navigation waterway because of long-term negative effects on fish and wildlife.

In 1974 the Governor and Cabinet authorized the first purchase of a large tract of land in the Lower Apalachicola River Basin. Since then 76,753 acres have been acquired and incorporated into the Apalachicola River WEA in Franklin and Gulf counties.

Ulee's Gold

bee hives
Lanier Family Hives

If you paddle down the quiet creeks and bayous lined with blooming tupelo, titi, and black gum in mid-April or May, you will hear a loud steady hum of honey bees. The Apalachicola River valley is the only place on earth where tupelo honey is produced commercially. Popularized in the film Ulee's Gold, real tupelo honey is produced solely from the flowers of the white tupelo and is light golden amber with a greenish cast. Unlike other honeys, real tupelo honey won't granulate.

The Lanier family of Wewahitchka has been harvesting Tupelo Honey from hives in the Apalachicola River swamp for over 100 years. Film director Victor Nunez bought a jar of tupelo honey from the Laniers' stand in downtown Wewahitchka in 1996. He explained he wanted to make a movie about a bee keeper and asked Ben and Glynnis Lanier to help. Ben taught actor Peter Fonda how to handle bees, and other members of the Lanier family were cast as extras. All the bee yards shown in the film belong to the Laniers.



FWC Facts:
Florida's official state butterfly, the zebra longwing (Heliconius charitonius) lives in hammocks, swamps & forests, sleeps in groups and returns to the same roost nightly.

Learn More at AskFWC