Aucilla River flows from Georgia to Florida’s Apalachee Bay

July 21st, 2015 by Red Hills

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published in Tallahassee Democrat 11/12/14

The Aucilla River begins in a small creek in lower Georgia and meanders south into the Red Hills of Florida where it creates most of the eastern border of Jefferson County. It flows slowly at first; passing close around Paleolithic burial mounds; skirting the edge of ancient pre-historic campsites and wandering through deep, rich farmland.

Often shallow, the river passes through deep pools where large mouth bass and crappie lurk in the shadows. Clear water occasionally trickles over limestone and the debris of vegetation, creating portages, some hundreds of yards long, rendering this part of the river nearly impassable except when swollen by rain.

Flowing well from the Federal Road through Herndon’s Landing, the Aucilla moves continuously south and slightly west almost to Goose Pasture where it disappears underground. Rising through openings in limestone, the water comes to the surface intermittently in a south-wandering trail of sinks.

Some sinks are no more than dark, mysterious and almost frightening slashes between slabs of limestone. Others are small gleaming lakes decorated with islands of lilies. Dozens of sinks follow along the path of the underground river until it resurfaces at Nutall Rise.

The resurrected Aucilla is wide and free flowing. Joined by the cold and clear Wacissa River, the stream continues due south to make a smooth curve around Ward Island, quietly drifting under a dead tree, home to a gathering of wood storks. The water moves well there, passing below a lofty eagle’s aerie and alongside the overgrown remains of a Confederate salt works.

The mouth of the Aucilla opens into Apalachee Bay, home of waterfowl, alligators, mullet and the beautiful hidden Pinhook River. The water flows swifter now, winding around small fingers of limestone and tiny up-thrust islands covered with palms and saw grass, following the tide into the Gulf.

Anne Holt is the executive director of Main Street Monticello.

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