Almost 20 years ago, a long drought exposed a treasure trove deep in Newnan’s Lake near Gainesville.
At the bottom of the lake, a high school teacher and his students discovered the world’s largest cache of prehistoric dugout canoes. An investigation revealed more than 100 canoes built by Native Americans thousands of years ago. Archaeologists studied the canoes to learn about the people who built and paddled them. Now, you can see the results of that effort in a new exhibit at the Silver River Museum at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala.
Last month, I attended the ribbon-cutting for “Dugout Canoes: Paddling Through the Americas,” created by the Florida Museum of Natural History. After traveling around the country, the English-Spanish bilingual exhibit found its long-term home at the Silver River Museum. We’re grateful to the Felburn Foundation for supporting a new museum wing to house the exhibit, and to Marion County Schools for being a terrific partner in making Silver Springs the best place in Florida to learn about springs.
You can see “Dugout Canoes: Paddling Through the Americas” at Florida Springsfestthis Saturday and Sunday, March 7-8 at Silver Springs. Last year’s Springsfest was the most-attended ever and we have high hopes for this year. I recently attended a meeting of state park educators and interpreters — park staff and rangers whose job is telling the story of Florida’s natural resources. I was impressed by their commitment and enthusiasm, and many park educational events such as Springsfest are the result of their hard work alongside park friends groups, volunteers and partners.
I’m proud that in Florida, dozens of freshwater springs are protected in state parks. New springs parks such as Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park make me optimistic for the future. In this issue of the Real Florida℠ Connection, we’re excited to share the newest protected spring at an addition to River Rise Preserve State Park.
Your visit helps us protect Florida’s springs — find a state park near you.
Eric Draper is Director of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Recreation and Parks