The emerald necklace known as the Red Hills

July 21st, 2015 by Red Hills

published in Tallahassee Democrat 5/4/14

The Boston, Massachusetts, area is famous for its “emerald necklace” of park lands, designed more than a century ago by Frederick Law Olmsted. But take out a map of the Tallahassee area and you’ll see a wide swath of parks and conservation lands that are unparalleled. Start at the north end. There is Maclay Gardens State Park and Phipps Park and the 300,000 acres that make up the largest concentration of protected plantation lands in the country.
Then swing east to Tom Brown Park, Lafayette Heritage Park, Alford Greenway and others. Head south to the Wakulla State Forest, Wakulla Springs State Park and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, and then look west to the vast Apalachicola National Forest and Lake Talquin State Forest. Throw in five scenic rivers, a myriad of lakes and a wild Gulf Coast, and you’ll see why these tree-covered lands rival most any national park in the Southeast, and why they are revered by the people who know them.
You can explore the Red Hills in a myriad of ways. There are public roads to the north and east from Tallahassee, both paved and unpaved, that seem more like tunnels beneath green archways, inviting a slow drive or bike ride. More than 600 miles of off-road trails lead one to more intimate experiences with deep woodlands, whether by bike, horseback or on foot.
Then there are the waterways. While sitting in a kayak or canoe, glide down clear spring-fed streams or ones tinted with swamp tannins. Red Hills blogs will cover those as well. And we’ll not forget about hunting, fishing and other traditions passed down through generations.
History abounds in the Red Hills, whether it’s at the carefully preserved Pebble Hill Plantation, the historic downtowns of Thomasville and Monticello, or the simple charm of Bradley’s Country Store. Massive Native American temple mounds afford one a commanding view of ancestral Apalachee lands, and living history centers such as Mission San Luis and the Tallahassee Museum bring the past to life.
This blog, with contributions from a variety of gifted writers, will focus on a vast region known as the Red Hills, stretching from Thomasville to Tallahassee and beyond. On occasion, we’ll even go as far south as the Gulf of Mexico, as far east as the Aucilla River, and to the west—the mighty Apalachicola River. We’ll cover the region’s biological diversity, scenic and historic resources, recreational opportunities, and challenges. So look for the Red Hills Blog and follow along.

Doug Alderson is the author of several outdoor books, including his latest, Wild Florida Adventures.

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