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Steam boat at Caravelle

Five thousand years ago native villages thrived along the St. Johns River and its tributaries. Within the Caravelle Wildlife Management Area five prehistoric middens have been found consisting of extensive deposits of freshwater shellfish, the dietary staple of these long-gone people. Later Indians cultivated rice in portions of the area.

During the 1800s, the nearby city of Palatka was a popular tourist destination. The Hiawatha and other steamboats carried visitors from Palatka up the Ocklawaha River to Silver Springs.

Historic photo of Caravelle Ranch

Bald cypress in the hardwood river swamp was harvested during the 1930s and 1940s. In the late 1960s and 1970s the Caravelle Ranch Cattle Company of Palatka removed trees and ditched and diked the land for pasture. The areas around SR 19 were a hunting preserve. Hogs were released, and an extensive system of roads and wildlife openings was created. Several other timber harvests occurred during the late 1980s.