Friday, January 01, 2016

Hiking Charles Bronson SF–Four Indian Mounds

Working windmillOn this trip I visited the four Indian Mounds along the St. Johns.  I’ve been saving this hike for a day when the weather was cooler, the St. Johns River water level was low, and a non-hunting day.  It sounds like pretty strict criteria that might never happen, but New Year’s Eve was the day.   The hike starts at the end of Curryville Rd with a short distance to the north where the “official” trailhead is located.  From the trailhead the trail heads due-east past an old irrigation pump and then a working windmill that keeps a cattle watering trough full.Cow family approaching

Along this path, cattle watched me go to the north and south of the trail, but at one point I came upon a family (bull, cow, and a calf) that looked like they were having a blast running down the path towards me.  As I moved to the side of the road Mom and Dad saw me and stopped, but Junior was having too much fun.  The calf pretty much ran right up to me before he saw me and took off back to his family.  When they were all back together, they turned around to head back to where they came.

Tub in spring - historical viewA little further along, I saw something that I’ve never seen on my hikes before.  It was a bathtub sitting next to an old spring (or well) way out in the middle of nowhere.  What was also strange was the spring itself – it appeard to have a small concrete pipe from which the water flowed. I learned that ranchers would pipe a well to a bathtub to use as a watering trough for cattle, but there were no pipes left.  This thing had been here a very long time.  Doing a little research, I was able to date this back to sometime prior to 1957 (the bottom photo on the left, the photo in the middle is from Google Earth).  That also leads me to believe that the pipe wasnt’ cement but likely  the results of more than half a century of mineral deposits.Large oak on Saddle Indian Mound

Continuing my eastward trek, I soon arrived at Saddle Mound.  There was a small herd of a cattle on the mound, but they ran off as I approached.  Exploring around this mound for a bit didn’t show much; cows spend a lot of time here, and soil thoroughly covers the remains.

Flag atop Heiffer Indian MoundHeiffer Mound is just a little further to the east, and the same cows were between me and that destination as well.  I think they were getting a little fed up with me walking past, but they moved again. 

Heiffer mound is right on the river’s edge today; when the water levels are higher, the only way to get here will be by boat.  This mound is different than all of the others that I’ve seen so far.  It has no trees growing on it – only short grass.  It also has a flag mounted right at the top.  I think that this was put up sometime this year since it isn’t visible on Google Earth.Erosion by river shows shell remains

This mound has some erosion at the base on the side that faces the river, so some of the remains of the midden are somewhat exposed.

The view from the top of this mound is absolutely amazing, so before heading on, I decided to stop here for lunch.  To the north the only sign of human activity was a couple of folks fishing from a boat so I relaxed and watched them and the water birds flying all across the river.

View from top of Heiffer Indian Mound-pano
Panorama from top of Heiffer Mound

Trail over Moccasin Indian MoundAfter lunch I backtracked my steps for a bit to arrive at Moccasin Mound which is almost due-west from Heiffer Mound.  This mound has a trail (of sorts) that goes over the top of it, and is overgrown with grasses, palms, and other scrub plants.  It is pretty well covered, so no remains of the midden were visible.  View of Nellie Dora Indian Mound

It is possible that wading around the ponds on the west side of the mound might reveal something, but that wasn’t part of my plan for today.  Instead, I headed on to my final destination for this trip.

Nellie Dora RemainsNellie Dora Mound is also well used by cattle in the area, however it had something the that Saddle Mound didn’t have – a fallen tree.  Mixed in with the roots of the fallen tree, the shells from the midden are easily seen.

With four Indian Mounds so close to each other, I suspect that this area was inhabited for a very long time.  I find it amazing that these mounds are so large and filled with the remains of shell fish meals that are so small.  Just think about how many mussels were eaten to create hills of this size.

Consider also that, in act of unintentional recycling, how many of these middens were destroyed over the years to collect the aggregate that makes up most of the roads in Florida.  There are still other mounds that I plan to explore, and I’m also trying to find some information that describes when they were created, and by who.

If you would like to visit any of these sites yourself, or just see where everything is, click on the “Trip Details” link below the map.

Click on Photo for Full Size
(Full Gallery)

Trail entrance Old irrigation pump Trail into woods
Spanish moss draping tree Cattle feeder Pond by the trail
Cattle love saddle mound Flag on top of Heiffer Indian Mound Second Pond by Moccasin Indian Mound
Top of Nellie Dora Indian Mound Shell remains under tree on Nellie Dora Mound The trail back from mounds

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