Grave of early settler
Prehistoric settlement in this part of Florida was strongly tied to river and coastal resources. Archaeological sites have been found near the Withlacoochee River and well-drained margins of lakes and spring heads. However, Native American sites were not prevalent on this side of the Withlacoochee River, probably due to its swampy banks.
After the Seminole Wars, white settlers from the Carolinas received federal land grants as compensation for voluntary service in the Seminole Wars. Colonists began using these grants to settle the area in the 1840s. Five recorded homestead sites remain, some associated with the former community of Alto, which existed from about 1888 through the early 1900s.
One of these, the McKinney Place, was inhabited from 1916 to 1945. The McKinneys raised cattle until the combined effects of screw worms and World War II forced them to sell the land for watermelon and sod production.
The Carltons acquired the land in 1969 for cattle ranching; they used existing fields and converted sections of palmetto scrub to improved pasture. A hunting club also leased the area from the early 1980s until the state purchased the Carlton Half Moon Ranch in 1989 in an effort to help preserve the water quality of Withlacoochee and its tributaries. In May 1992, the then-Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission entered a lease agreement with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, and an additional 4,021 acres were added to the management area.