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Oh, The Plans We’re Making and the Places We’ve Seen. Come Along, Join Us.
The town gets its name from the Tongass and Tlingit Indians who named their fish camp kitschk-hin, meaning stream with “thundering wings of eagles.” While Skagway attracted gold prospectors, Ketchikan was a treasure trove of abundant fish and timber that attracted Americans to the area. In 1885, Mike Martin bought 160 acres from Chief Kyan to found the township. The first cannery was built in 1886 near the mouth of Ketchikan Creek and by 1912 four more were in operation.
By 1936 there were seven canneries in working, producing almost two million cases of salmon a season. The need for lumber fostered the Ketchikan Spruce Mills built in 1903, which operated for over 70 years. The lumber industry collapsed when the Clinton administration moved to reduce timber cutting in Alaska by having the U.S. Forest service cancel contracts for timber in March 1997.
Where Your Ship Docks
Getting from your ship into town is convenient as there are several piers near downtown for berthing cruise ships.
Ketchikan is a small town with the central district encompassing only a few dozen blocks. Most trips out of town involve specific nature tours by bus, car, boat or plane. The town is located on one of Alaska’s large coastal islands with most of it covered in large tracts of undeveloped forest.
Ketchikan is an American town and uses the U.S. Dollar. Credit cards are widely accepted and so are ATM machines.
Ketchikan is home to Tongass Historical Museum along with a waterfront cannery exhibit and the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. Salmon fishing charters are readily available and you can have your catch flash frozen or smoked and couriered home (a bit pricey but worth the bragging rights). Additional tours include wilderness expeditions, trips to the Misty Fjords and whale watching.
Shopping offers a number of opportunities with the smoked and canned salmon being high on everyone’s list being a reasonably priced prize.
It’s unusual to come across an early nineteenth century stockade fort in the middle of a Florida town. Not something you expect outside of Disney World. But on a recent drive through central Florida that is what we found in Ocala.
It’s a historically accurate replica of Fort King at its original site. Designated a National Historic Landmark the site is being developed into a park that includes an interesting museum. For the state of Florida this is almost ancient history. Early settlers, Seminole Wars, Andrew Jackson.
There’s history all around us if we just take the time to look and understanding it is important for our future. Here’s a peek into Florida’s history and what happened around Fort King.
Every state in America is noted for its tribes of American Indians that include Comanches, Blackfoot, Algonquin, Shaenee, Shoshone, Sioux and almost a hundred additional tribes. In Florida we recognize the Seminoles as our major Indian tribe, but who are they historically?
It seems Seminole history in Florida starts with bands of Creek Indians from Georgia and Alabama migrating to the state in the 1700s. Wars with other tribes along with conflict with the arriving Europeans caused them to move south seeking new lands. At the time Spain controlled Florida and encouraged these Indian migrations hoping to provide a buffer between them and the British colonies to the north.
It was at this time that these Florida Indians became known as the Seminole, a name that meant “wild people” or “runaways.”
Florida has long been considered an inhospitable place filled with swamps, and scrub land, cursed with hot weather, high humidity, mosquitoes and alligators. Even so by the late eighteenth century settlers began to look for land to settle in Florida and in 1819 Spain saw the inevitable and agreed to sell Florida to the United States.
Soon these new settlers were coming in conflict with the Seminoles and the government decided the situation needed a solution. In 1823 the Treaty of Moultrie Creek was signed between the United States and leaders of the Seminole Nation. That treaty had the Seminoles relocate to a large tract of land in what is now Central Florida. The treaty also prohibited white persons from entering or settling on those Seminole lands. The Ocala area was central to the Indian towns and the army built Fort King to assure that both sides kept the treaty.
In a reversal of policy Congress passed The Indian Removal Act in 1830 at the urging of President Andrew Jackson who had fought the Seminoles in Florida and defeated the Creek Indians in 1814. This resulted in the forced negotiation of the controversial Treaty of Payne’s Landing requiring that the Seminoles be removed to new lands in what is now Oklahoma.
A core group of Seminoles, led by the warrior Osceola fiercely opposed the treaty forcing the government to reoccupy Fort King and the associated U.S. Indian Agency. General Wiley Thompson, the U.S. Agent assigned to Fort King and Osceola engaged in a number of confrontations. This resulted in General Thompson ordering Osceola chained and thrown into the guardhouse at the.
Released several days later, Osceola declared that war was the only option left. On December 28, 1835, he attacked Fort King when Wiley Thompson and Lieutenant Constantine Smith went for a walk outside the post. Thompson was shot numerous times and scalped. Six others were also killed but Fort King was too strong to take. That same day a larger force of Seminole warriors attacked troops on their way to Fort King in a fight known as Dade’s Battle, leaving over 100 soldiers dead. This would become the start of the Second Seminole War.
Fort King was abandoned in May of 1836 in favor of Fort Drane built nearer the swamps where the Seminoles were hold up. Fort King was reoccupied in April of 1837. It served as a base for raids and in 1840 Captain Gabriel Rains of the 7th U.S. Infantry led 16 soldiers on a recon but were attacked by a Seminole war party. They managed to fight their way back to Fort King, with three men killed.
After defeating the army in early battles of the Second Seminole War, Seminole leader Osceola was captured in 1837, when U.S. agents invited him under a truce to talk peace.
Five years later the Second Seminole War was declared over on August 14, 1842. Fort King was evacuated for good the following year. By 1858, when the United States declared a formal end to the Third Seminole War over 3,000 Seminoles were moved west of the Mississippi River leaving only 200 to 300 Seminoles in Florida swamps.
As a footnote, Florida is proud to call the Seminoles our tribe and the Noles are happy to be a part of Florida. back a few years ago when there was a movement to strip sports teams of their Indian names the Seminoles made it very clear that they were thrilled with their name being attached to Florida State. The Noles have done very well in Florida recently with the Hard Rock Cafe International (USA), Inc. being sold to the Seminole Tribe of Florida in 2007 with headquarters at the reservation in Davie, Florida.
Florida has always attracted visitors to its’ ocean beaches but, years ago, it also had an assortment of inland tourist destinations. Those old Florida attractions have been dying out, pushed aside and even replaced by theme parks. Unfortunately, history and gardens cannot compete with movie attractions, roller coasters and fantasies.
While Cypress Gardens once drew huge crowds, it was sold and replaced by Legoland. Silver Springs, on the other hand, has seen a revival under Florida State Parks’ new ownership and management. Of the over fifty natural springs in Florida, the largest by far is Silver Springs pushing out five hundred million gallons of clear 72° water every day.
Since the mid-19th century, the natural beauty of Silver Springs has attracted visitors from all over the world. Glass-bottom boat tours of the springs began in the 1870s. In the 1920s, W. Carl Ray and W.M. “Shorty” Davidson, leased the land from Ed Carmichael and developed the area around the headwaters of the Silver River into an attraction that eventually became known as Silver Springs Nature Theme Park. The attraction featured native animal exhibits, amusement rides, and 30 or 90-minute glass-bottom boat tours of the springs. Upon Carmichael’s death he left the springs to the University of Florida
In 1993, the state acquired Silver Springs from the University of Florida, though the concessions continued to be operated privately. In 2013 the state took complete control, merging the springs with the adjacent parkland to create Silver Springs State Park. With reduced cost of admission and boat tour prices, the park has seen a steady upturn in popularity.
The outflow area has water depths that range from very shallow to over fifty feet and the water is so crystal clear it is difficult to believe you are looking at a bottom that far down. The spring feeds the Silver River that flows for three miles until it joins the Ocklawaha River in the Ocala National Forest which than flows into the St. John River. The area is home to dozens of species of fish, birds, alligators and manatees.
In its’ commercial days, Silver Spring also played host to a number of movie and television productions. It was home base for underwater shooting of Loyd Bridges’ Sea Hunt TV show, James Bond’s Moonraker and Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan movies. It also was the set for The Creature From The Black Lagoon and hosted scenes from Smokey And The Bandit.
In addition to a nice concession area and the glass-bottom boat docks, the park is a favorite of kayakers and has great hiking trails. The Florida Park Service is developing a number of new areas like a creative kids playground. It also plays host to concerts and a number of nature programs. Admission is only $2.00 with the boat rides being an additional $11.00.
There was a time when small roadside attractions where the highlight of family road-trips. While they have been overshadowed by the mega-parks and major resorts, there are still a number of roadside gems that should be sought out – little pieces of history encased in small museums. If you take the time, you will discover these surprises everywhere.
Discoveries we have made in Florida and Georgia include:
The Georgia Rural Telephone Museum in Leslie, Georgia, is home to the largest collection of antique telephones and telephone memorabilia in the world. As a bonus, this museum is a stop on the SAM Short Line excursion train out of Cordele – a great day trip!
Located in Lakeland, Florida off I-4, The Florida Air Museumdisplays a wide variety of vintage aircraft, ultralights, experimental homebuilts, air racers, military, aerobatic and factory-built aircraft from all eras.
The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum offers an interesting and educational museum experience that transports you and your family back in time over 300 years to Port Royal, Jamaica, to the height of the Golden Age of Piracy.
National Civil War Naval Museum located in Columbus, GA. Tells the stories of the navies of the Civil War, connecting people with the past; giving them a better sense of place and time.
On a recent drive we decided to take a look at south-central Florida and visited a few small towns like Sebring, Lake Wales, Lake Placid and Clewiston. Planning the trip we researched a couple of stops that seemed worthy of a visit.
In Sebring, home of the the famous race course where the first 12 Hours of Sebring was held on March 15, 1952, we found our first museum of the trip.
The Military Sea Services Museum – an admittance free museum that has collected seagoing artifacts, stories, books and photographs relating to the time spent at sea by our military. In the collection are a large number of custom ship models, uniforms, weapons and some real finds like a commemorative brass plate cast for the WWII Japanese surrender on the battleship Missouri. The building sits in the middle of a WWII military training airfield.
Another stop in Sebring was planned as a visit to Highlands Hammock State Park. Established in 1931 and developed later by Florida’s Civilian Conservation Corps, the park features a lush and incredibly diverse 9,000 acre refuge for endangered animals and ancient flora. While the park is a great place for hiking, it is also home to the Florida CCC Museum. Chock full of memorabilia and AV displays, it is a remarkable place to learn about the Civilian Conservation Core, the New Deal program that gave hundreds of thousands of young American men an opportunity for paid work and training during the Great Depression.
While on the subject of Florida small museums, there is one that I have been visiting for years. Located on the southern end of North Hutchinson Island at Ft. Pierce is The National UDT And Seal Museum. It was located at Ft. Pierce because that was the site of the original WWII training facility for Underwater Demolition Teams. It was originally named the UDT Museum but was later updated to include Seals.
The Seal teams have overshadowed UDT in recent years but Seals are a progression from the UDT units that were active in WWII up to the early 1970’s and they share the same training program (Buds for Basic Underwater Demolition School). Stop by and learn something about Seals, their training, missions and their predecessor’s, the Underwater Demolition Teams..
UDT prided themselves as the first on the beach in a landing assault
At 7:10 am on the morning of June 6th 1944 at a point of land where the rolling farmland of western France drops ninety feet down vertical cliffs to meet the sea, in the words of one Army Ranger “All hell broke loose.”
Three hours before that, on a troopship offshore hidden in the fog and smokescreen laid down by the armada, the PA system announced, “Rangers, man your craft.” Of the three hundred Rangers that boarded those boats to attack those cliffs and capture its gun emplacements later that morning only ninety would still be standing.
At Pointe du Hoc, at that moment the World War II invasion of Normandy began.
Visiting today it is almost impossible to comprehend how anyone could scale those cliffs under enemy fire and succeed.
Spend a moment visiting this land, set aside to the memory of those brave men and reflect on just what Memorial Day represents.
Pointe du Hoc occupied the high ground overlooking beaches to the east and was covered in fortified cannon emplacements. It was thought that if the cannons were not taken out of commission they would have prevented a successful landing on the beach below.
Florida is all about the water, Sun and beaches and if you visit you should take the time to get up close to some of our wildlife. From Manatees in the clear springs, birdwatching up the Indian River or the island of Captiva and alligators almost anywhere. The options are varied and there are a number of guides ready to introduce you to airboat rides, party boat fishing offshore, inter-coastal cruising, and snorkeling adventures.
Allow us to introduce you to some of the locals:
While the Double-crested Cormorant does often nest in colonies, we’ve never seen such a large group in one place before. The video below was taken on the Indian River in eastern, central Florida and it appeared as if a large shoal of fish had attracted the attention of a number of Cormorants along with some Brown Pelicans. What first caught our attention was a large area of frothing white water near the far bank. By the time we got near the feeding was breaking up but still an interesting sight.
Keep your eyes open – the wild side is everywhere in Florida.