is blessed with so much natural heritage. We have waterways
lakes all over our beautiful state. If not for the rivers,
early settlers would have had a much harder time getting around.
Our Indians used dugout canoes to travel silently along the rivers. Once the white man arrived, they began harvesting trees and sending them down river to be processed and sent north or across the ocean. Cedar, Oak and Cypress were made into rafts sometimes to float along. Some boats were polled with long poles to accomodate the various depths of the water. Theses could guide logs down river also.
The more water travel was used, the more innovative our forefathers became. They used barges to take goods down river and returned with goods for general stores along the river banks.
Immigrants who landed in Charleston and Savannah and traveled south were able to travel the St. Johns river south against the current to Palatka, Deland and Sanford. Others branched out into the Ocklawaha River for a more inland route to Ocala, Leesburg , Tavares, and Mt. Dora with the final destitation of Apopka.
Those who came into our panhandle area made good use of the Appalachicola River. 1827 saw the first steamboat service on the river.
In 1829 the Chipola Canal Coumpany was chartered to build a canal or railroad across Florida.
Hubbard L. Hart made his way from his native Vermont to Palatka in 1855 by way of Boston, Savannah and Darien, Georgia. He contracted to carry the mail from Palatka to Tampa. He became owner of the stage coach line which ran the mail from each end every Monday and Thursday. There were stops at night along the way to make it more accessible for those who did not travel well. He became interested in tourism after seeing Silver Springs. He bought the James Burt, a paddle- wheel steamboat and began trips between Palatka and Silver Springs which took 2 days.
The Hart Line, ran steamboats for about 25 yrs on the Ocklawaha River. This was not the only line. There were even several captains who only had one boat but made a good living on the river.
With the coming of the railroad, river travel dwindled. No longer was there only one fast way to get around the east coast. It is a shame that there wasn't a place for the old steamships. It was certainly a more beautiful, restful way of travel.
Not many years later, the state was crisscrossed with many roads and automobile travel replaced the railroad as the best method of travel. Many of the railroad tracks were abandoned and overgrown. By the end of the 20th century many tracks were removed and local groups maintain the rail bed for those who enjoy hiking. The idea being to have a complete route of these trails throughout the state.