drawing of mastodon and rhinoceros
Florida Photo Archives - Pliocene four-tusked mastodon Serridentinus and aquatic rhinoceros Teleoceras

Seven thousand years before the birth of Christ, Native Americans were mining the limestone formations on Little Gator Creek for chert, a flintlike stone they chipped into tools. These early people lived by hunting small and large animals and gathering wild plants.

The climate was much drier than today, the portion of the Florida peninsula above sea level was much larger, and the springs, lakes, rivers, and wetlands that greeted Spanish explorers nonexistent. Instead there were open grassy prairies, scrub oaks, and pine forests. Water holes were critical to the survival of both the people and the animals-mammoths, horses, and bison-they hunted. At Little Gator Creek, archeologists have found spear points, knives, hammerstones, and flakes from the tool making process spanning 7000 years.

All the virgin longleaf and slash pine were harvested on the area in 1903 and 1904. In 1928-34, a naval stores operation was conducted, and turpentine "faces" are still visible on many of the trees. A second pine tree harvest occurred in 1939, and bald cypress was harvested in 1949 and 1955.

photo of spear point
Florida Department of State
Spear Point

Until 1970 when the practice of cattle grazing was discontinued, prescribed burning was conducted on a regular 2-year cycle. Burning was conducted irregularly after that until state purchase in 1982. A limerock mining operation adjacent to the property controlled both the quantity and the quality of water entering the area. Water control structures were installed by the previous owner to direct water to the cypress swamp containing the wood stork rookery.

In 1982 the area was purchased under the Conservation and Recreation Lands Program from C.M. Overstreet, a local cattleman.



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