Sunday, June 27, 2010

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park - Homosassa Springs, Florida

The manatee of the Florida Gulf Coast have become a favorite attraction for visitors to the Sunshine State. They can be found from the Big Bend south to the Keys, but perhaps the best place to see them up close and personal without even getting your feet wet is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

Located 60 miles north of Tampa and 90 miles northwest of Orlando on U.S. Highway 19, the spring has been a tourist attraction for so long that it holds a unique place in Florida history as a result. Beginning in around 1900, trains ran along what is now Fish Bowl Drive, a street that passes through the park. The trains would stop at Homosassa Springs to let passengers rest by the spring. Slowly it developed into a popular attraction.

In the 1930s it was home to a hunting lodge owned by baseball legend Dazzy Vance. In the 1960s a company that trained animals for use in Hollywood movies and television shows located there. Visitors could even meet Buck the Bear, who doubled for "Gentle Ben" in the popular tv show of that name.

Today Homosassa Springs is a state park, noted for its pristine beauty and crystal clear water. Six manatee call the spring home and can be seen there 365 days a year. The park also cares for other manatee that are recuperating from injuries or illness until they can be returned to the wild. Visitors can watch them swimming in the spring or even walk down a stairway into an underwater observation room to see them from a fish eye view.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is also home to Lu the Hippo. He holds the distinction of being the only hippopotamus who has been declared an official resident of the State of Florida. To learn his story and more, please visit

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Swann Covered Bridge - Blount County, Alabama

The longest surviving covered bridge in Alabama presents a spectacular scene as it stretches over the gorge of the Locust Fork of the Warrior River.

Built in 1933 by the uncle and nephew team of Zelmer and Forrest Tidwell, the Swann Covered Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of three surviving covered bridges in Blount County, Alabama.

These beautiful old bridges stand as silent reminders of the days before concrete and steel were commonly used in bridge construction. Because the wood flooring of bridges often deteriorated rapidly due to exposure to the elements such as rain, snow and ice, our ancestors came up with the idea of building covers over bridges to protect the flooring. For many years covered bridges were common on the roads and byways of America, but today most have long since disappeared.

In Alabama, there were once more than 30 covered bridges, but only 11 survive. Sadly, several have been lost in recent years due to vandalism and arson.

Fortunately, the beautiful Swann bridge is among those that survive. More than 300 feet long, it is a three span bridge with the main spain stretching for more than 75 feet over the rushing water of the Locust Fork.

To learn more about this beautiful old bridge, please visit

Monday, June 21, 2010

Belle Grove Historic District - Fort Smith, Arkansas

One of the most charming historic districts in the South can actually be found on what was once its western frontier.

Belle Grove Historic District in Fort Smith, Arkansas, coverd 22 city blocks and features an array of stunning historic structures spanning 130 years of Southern history. The numerous architectural styles on display in the district clearly demonstrate the city's historical claim to be the place "Where the Old South meets the Old West."

The John Rogers House, built in 1840 and thought to be the oldest house in Fort Smith, was patterned after the barracks of the old fort itself. Like many other homes in Belle Grove, it survived the violent years of the Civil War in the West and stands today as a landmark of Fort Smith's early history.

Nearby stands the unique Casper Reutzel House. Built using a half-timber and brick nogging design, it was completed in 1850 and was the home of Reutzel, who ran the most successful cotton shipping business on the Arkansas River. Another survivor of the Civil War, the house was loopholed for musketry.

Other structures in the Belle Grove Historic District include the Fort Smith Art Center (built in 1857 and used to quarter troops during the Civil War), the Bonneville House (built in 1870 and purchased in 1878 by the widow of Gen. Benjamin Bonneville, a famous Western explorer), the Clayton House (once the home of the District Attorney during the days of "Hanging Judge" Isaac C. Parker) and the Darby House (the boyhood home of Gen. William O. Darby, the father of the U.S. Army Rangers).

To learn more, please visit

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Jimmy Buffett announces plans for Free Concert to help Gulf Coast

Jimmy Buffett has announced that he will hold a free concert "on the beach" at Gulf Shores, Alabama, on July 1 to encourage people to visit the Gulf Coast despite the Oil Spill.

The concert will air live on CMT at 7 p.m. central and will also feature Kenny Chesney, Sonny Landreth, the Zac Brown Band and others. CMT indicates in a statement today that additional plans will be announced over the coming days.

Please click here to read the announcement at Buffett's website,

Oak Mountain State Park & Peavine Falls - Pelham, Alabama

On the southern edge of Birmingham in Pelham, Alabama's beautiful Oak Mountain State Park spreads out over nearly 10,000 acres of pristine and historic mountain country.

Situated in Shelby County, an area rich in historic sites, the popular state park is a great place to explore the natural history of Alabama. With over 50 miles of hiking trails that lead up and down mountain ridges as well as a paved drive leading up to picnic tables and overlooks high atop the mountain, the expansive park is perfect for exploring the outdoors and learning more about the birds and wildlife of the state.

The Alabama Wildlife Center, located at Oak Mountain State Park, is the oldest and largest animal rehabilitation center in the state. Each year its staff and volunteers care for over 2,500 injured wild animals. The center is open to the public, as is the Treetop Nature Trail, an elevated boardwalk that allows up close and personal views of Alabama birdlife including Great Barn Owls, hawks and more.

One of the most popular points of interest in the park is Peavine Falls, a beautiful waterfall formed by a 60-foot cascade down the mountainside. Accessible from several hiking trails, the falls run best in rainy weather and were one of the first major attractions at Oak Mountain. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) opened a trail to the waterfall when the park was under the development during the Great Depression.

To learn more about the history and points of interest at Oak Mountain State Park, please visit

Friday, June 18, 2010

Battle of Booneville - Booneville, Mississippi

On July 1, 1862, Confederate cavalry forces led by General James R. Chalmers attacked Union cavalry forces at Booneville, Mississippi. The battle that followed would lead to widespread acclaim in the North for Colonel "Little" Phil Sheridan and in part to his promotion to brigadier general.

As the story was told in the North, Sheridan was camped at Booneville with two regiments of Union cavalry, the Second Michigan and Second Iowa. On the morning of July 1, 1862, Confederate troops drove in his pickets on the outskirts of town and a full scale battle quickly developed. The Federals were initially driven back, but Sheridan saved the day by carrying out simultaneous attacks on both the Confederate flank and rear.

This much of the story is true, but word quickly spread that with only 700 or so men, Sheridan had stood down a devastating attack by from 4000 to 5000 Confederates. Not only was he credited with holding back the Southern attack, but the force at the colonel's command claimed to have killed 65 Confederates while losing only one man killed.

It was the story that made Sheridan a hero in the North and started him on the road that would lead to a careeer as one of the most determined and successful Union generals. The problem is that it might not be entirely true.

A report by Confederate General Braxton Bragg prior to the battle indicates that General Chalmers commanded a cavalry force of only 1,200 to 1,500 men, not the 4,000 - 5,000 claimed by Sheridan. Chalmers himself wrote that he sent only three regiments - the First Confederate Cavalry, the First Alabama cavalry and Wirt Adams' regiment from Mississippi - into the Battle of Booneville. In a letter written after the war he credited Sheridan with being a capable and brave general, but called the Northern version of the battle "simply ridiculous."

To learn more about the Battle of Booneville, please visit

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Two Egg, Florida T-shirts and Souvenirs are now available!

In response to many inquiries from people all across the nation, our sister site - - has made available a large collection of t-shirts and other souvenirs featuring the quaint and historic community of Two Egg, Florida.

Yes, Two Egg is a real place. In fact, it has been featured in national magazines such as National Geographic and on television broadcasts around the world. Located in the panhandle of Florida between Tallahassee and Pensacola, the unqiuely named community has brought smiles to untold thousands of travelers over the years.

The new collection of souvenirs includes t-shirts and a wide variety of other items of clothing, bbq aprons, coasters, cutting boards, coffee mugs, travel mugs and much more. All are emblazoned with either photographs or logos featuring Two Egg, Florida. In addition to items with photographs of the Two Egg highway sign, there are also shirts and other items featuring the "I'm a Kickin' Chicken from Two Egg, Florida" and "Two Egg, Florida: Capital of the New South!" logos.

To learn more about the new items and to learn more about Two Egg itself, please visit

Monday, June 7, 2010

Greenwood Florida - Historic Antebellum Town in Northwest Florida

Founded in 1824, the charming little Florida Panhandle town of Greenwood is home to one of the finest collections of antebellum homes and structures in the interior counties of Florida.

Greenwood has retained much of its original character through the years and remains today a small trading community surrounded by vast tracts of farm land. That is largely the role it has played for 196 years.

The community came into existance at an important crossroads just three years after Florida became a U.S. territory and grew in prosperity as the farms being carved from the surrounding wilderness grew into large plantations. By the time of the Civil War, Greenwood was an important trading community surrounded by one of the most prosperous plantation districts in the Deep South.

The town attracted national attention in 1853 when the abolitionist movement in the North seized on the spectacular suicide in Greenwood of a slave who threw himself down a well rather than submit to a whipping.

A drive or walk through the small town today provides a fascinating climpse of the grandeur that once marked such rural trading communities during the antebellum era. Although none of Greenwood's historic homes are open to the public, many have been beautifully restored and are treasured parts of the community. Historical markers dot the front lawns, telling the stories of both magnificent and simple structures, some of which date back to the 1830s.

Greenwood is located on State Highway 71 just 7.1 miles north of U.S. Highway 90 in Marianna, Florida. Also of interest in the area are Marianna's historic sites, the site of the Battle of Marianna and Florida Caverns State Park. To learn more, please visit

Friday, June 4, 2010

Gamble Plantatation Historic State Park - Ellenton, Florida

The beautiful old Gamble Plantation house in Ellenton - just south of Tampa Bay - is the last standing original plantation house in South Florida and is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in the state.

Built in 1845-1850 by Major Robert Gamble, who farmed sugar cane along the Manatee River, the house was once the center of a massive plantation that covered thousands of acres of land. The area, with its low swampy land, was ideal for growing sugar cane and the plantation consisted of both growing operations and a sugar mill.

Gamble had to give up the farm before the Civil War when sugar prices fell and by the time of that conflict it was in the hands of Archibald McNeill, a noted sea captain. When the Union blockade began to close Florida's ports to commerce, McNeill developed a new career as a blockade runner. He ran small ships in and out of the small harbors and inlets along Florida's Gulf Coast and became one of the best known such captains active during the war.

His home was a logical destination for the Confederate officials that fled Richmond when the Southern capital fell in 1865. One of these, Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin (above at left), made his way south into Florida in May of 1865. Reaching the Gamble Mansion, he remained there until Captain McNeill was able to prepare a blockade runner to carry him out past the Union warships offshore. He became one of the few key Confederate officials to escape capture by Union forces.

The house is now the key feature of Gamble Plantation Historic State Park and can be toured Thursday through Monday. The grounds are open year-round. To learn more, please visit

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park - Cross Creek, Florida

Some of the best known and most loved books about life in Florida in the early 20th century were written in this picturesque frame home in the small community of Cross Creek, Florida.

It was the home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, a Northern-born writer who came to Florida permanently after visiting the state with her husband in 1928. The couple bought a 72-acre farm in Cross Creek, which is located on the east side of Orange Lake between Gainesville and Ocala. Her husband didn't care for life in the hot scrub and pine woods, but Marjorie remained to become one of the best-known writers in American history.

The books she wrote and based on the landscape and her neighbors in and around Cross Creek included "Cross Creek" and "South Moon Under." Her 1938 book, "The Yearling," was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1939 and was used as the basis for a popular movie of the same name.

The farm at Cross Creek has been beautifully preserved and looks much as it did when Rawlings lived and wrote there. Visitors can walk through the rusty iron gate and into the orchard described in her writings, tour the house where she lived and entertained an array of famous visitors including poet Robert Frost, novelist Margaret Mitchell and actor Gregory Peck.

Tours of the house are now given Thursday through Sunday, but the grounds can be explored daily. To learn more, please visit