Thursday, November 6, 2008

Aspalaga Bluff - Gadsden County, Florida

This is a view of Aspalaga Bluff. Fronting the Apalachicola River just south of today's Interstate 10 bridge, the bluff is one of the most significant historic sites in Gadsden County.
In prehistoric times, Native Americans built a ceremonial complex of three mounds here. One of the most important archaeological sites in Florida, the mound complex dates from roughly A.D. 400- 900.
In 1818 the bluff was crossed by General Andrew Jackson's army during the U.S. invasion of Spanish Florida remembered today as the First Seminole War. Jackson's topographer, Captain Hugh Young, described the rocky escarpment where the bluff fell off into the river.
In the years that followed, as early settlers drifted into Gadsden County, Aspalaga became the site of an early settlement. An important riverboat landing, the community boasted a store, houses and a water-powered mill.
It was here that early botanist Hardy Bryan Croom first noticed that an unusal tree grew in large groves. Upon closer examination he realized that the tree, called "stinking cedar" by local residents, had never been classified. He named it the Florida Torreya (torreya taxifolia) after Dr. John Torrey, a prominent 19th century American scientist. Now one of the rarest trees in the world, the Florida Torreya can still be found growing along the Apalachicola River from Aspalaga south to Torreya State Park and the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve in neighboring Liberty County.
Aspalaga Bluff was the site of Fort Barbour, a U.S. Army post that guarded the ferry over the Apalachicola River here during the Second Seminole War. During the Civil War, the landing here was visited by the Confederate warship C.S.S. Chattahoochee and Southern soldiers often spent the night here while making their ways up or down the Apalachicola.
The community at Aspalaga eventually faded and died away completely with the end of steamboat traffic during the mid-20th century. The bluff today is protected as a part of Torreya State Park. The adjacent landing area is open to the public.

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