A group from the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma recently returned to Florida’s Apalachicola River.
The emotional visit was part of a retracing of the Seminole Trail of Tears across Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. The Florida segment stretched by road from the Keys to Pensacola, with nearly one full day dedicated to an exploration of the Apalachicola River estuary and historic Prospect Bluff in the Apalachicola National Forest.
The group arrived in Apalachicola at around 7 a.m on Wednesday, July 19, to board the 40-person vessel Starfish Enterprise at the Apalachicola Maritime Museum. They were greeted there by Kelly Russell, Forest Supervisor of the National Forests in Florida; Rhonda Kimbrough, Coordinator of Heritage and Tribal Government Programs for the National Forests of Florida; George Kirvin Floyd and Chelsey Venrick of the Apalachicola Maritime Museum; Dale Cox, author/historian, and other guests.
The next two hours were spent on a journey upstream on the Apalachicola River and through the channels of the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve. The reserve encompasses more than 246,000 acres of public lands and waters including 52-miles of the river plus Apalachicola Bay and offshore barrier islands. It is a wonderland of biodiversity that is also part of the original homeland of the Seminole people.
The voyage included discussions of the Native American history of the lower Apalachicola River and a rare chance to see Prospect Bluff Historic Sites from the water. The bluff is the site of British Fort National Landmark (sometimes called the “Negro Fort”) and Fort Gadsden Historic Site.
After passing Prospect Bluff, the boat turned up Owl Creek to Hickory Landing where the Seminole group was greeted by Andrea Repp, PhD, the archaeologist for the Apalachicola National Forest along with other representatives from the U.S. Forest Service. Land transportation was provided for a trip through the national forest to Prospect Bluff. After a guided tour of the site, time was provided for reflection on the significance of the site in Seminole history and culture.
The return trip to Apalachicola was made by land and concluded at the Apalachicola Maritime Museum. The group also took time to enjoy fresh Apalachicola seafood! The Seminoles continued their journey west through the Florida Panhandle.
To learn more about Prospect Bluff Historic Sites, just click play to enjoy this free documentary: