Sunday, March 15, 2009

Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve - Bristol, Florida

Some of the most beautiful as well as historically and ecologically important land in the South can be found in the Nature Conservancy's Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve near Bristol, Florida.

The preserve contains more than 6,000 acres and protects beautiful bluffs and steephead ravines along the Apalachicola River where some of the rarest plants in the world can be found. Among these are the Florida Torreya, which local legend holds is the "gopher wood" from which Noah built the ark, and the Florida yew, a similar but even rarer tree.

A Bristol writer, E.E. Callaway, once advanced the theory that the Alum Bluff portion of the preserve was the Biblical Garden of Eden. To commemorate this theory, the Nature Conservancy now maintains the more than three mile long Garden of Eden Trail that provides public access to Alum Bluff and the site where Callaway believed the Garden of Eden once stood.

While most Biblical scholars place the Garden of Eden in the Middle East, Callaway's theory is still popular locally. Whether or not Alum Bluff was the site of Eden, it was the site of numerous significant events in Southern history. Andrew Jackson camped atop the bluff on March 13, 1818, during the First Seminole War. Confederate troops built fortifications here and lined the top of the bluff with heavy cannon during the Civil War as part of a defensive effort to guard the Apalachicola River against Union attack. Traces of the Civil War earthworks can still be seen.

The hike to Alum Bluff is strenuous, but leads to one of the most beautiful views in Florida. The towering bluff rises 135 feet above the river and offers a scenic panorama of Northwest Florida.

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