A Florida Friday: Watch out!

Undated image showing a man fishing in the pristine Blue Springs, Marion County, FL (public domain image – Library of Congress) – you can see how crystal clear the water is.

Undated image of settlers in Ocala, Florida- no plumbing, no AC, no electric

I often think about Florida’s earliest settlers and what it must have been like for them to experience the diverse and alien habitats within the peninsula. It was a harsh environment without all of today’s conveniences and navigational know-how. No signs to alert them to dangers that may lie ahead: alligators, bears, boars, panthers, fire ants, thorny plants, swamp land, poisonous snakes. No guidebooks. No weather alerts that a hurricane was coming. No hospitals. No experience with the tough and thorny flora.

On the other hand, these early arrivals got to see Florida in a pristine state, something denied most travelers today except those who venture into places that are protected by the state and/or hard to reach places that remain inhospitable and uninhabitable.

While you can enjoy Florida’s many beautiful state parks and national forests, which definitely have their pristine areas, you’re never far from signs of civilization and never far from help if you need it (which is a good thing, of course).

On a side note, a couple days ago I met a woman who grew up in the Everglades back in the 1950s and 1960s. Wow—the stories she can tell are unbelievable. She still spends time camping out in places 99.9% of today’s Floridians would never dare go. I admire her. A tough lady who has had a very unique life experience and knows the Ten Thousand Islands like the back of her hand.

I’ve been in Florida long enough to respect the land and wildlife habitats. Long enough to know to be wary of threats and dangers I may encounter along the way.

When I was very young, the The Yearling (Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman) made a deep impression on me for obvious reasons.  The film was on TCM a couple of weeks ago, and this time, seeing it through the lens of someone who knows Florida much better than I did 50+ years ago, it was still gut-wrenching during that one part of the film, but I marveled at the family’s fortitude, understood their decision making, and winced at Jody’s ability to run barefoot everywhere. I don’t know anyone who would attempt that today other than at the beach.

An 1839 map of the Florida territory shows just how sparsely populated Florida was, with virtually no development whatsoever south of Lake George.

For the entire map, with zoom option, go to: https://www.wdl.org/en/item/9598/view/1/1/

By 1895, things were much different, although south Florida, apart from its eastern edge, had yet to really be discovered. Below is a map from an 1895 publication called The Tourists’ and Settlers’ Guide to Florida.

From The Tourists and Settlers’ Guide to Florida, published 1895, Public Domain through the US Library of Congress.

Today with a 20 million+ population, there are plenty of signs around, telling us where to go and what not to do, which is not a bad thing. They no doubt deter many from engaging in reckless behavior. Sure you hear stories of people doing silly things from time to time, like the young man who thought he could swim across a stretch of Lake Okeechobee without any repercussions. Those types of things do leave you scratching your head.

Here are a few warning signs I’ve seen in my travels (and I’m happy they were there):

Sign by the Suwanee River – every morning we woke to the sound of giant jumping sturgeon pounding the water!

Saw this one somewhere in my travels – maybe in Winter Garden?

Swim with caution – is that an understatement or what? Not sure where I saw this one, but I think it was near one of the Florida springs

“Underwater hazards”… Really inviting, isn’t it? Seems to me I took this at Jonathan Dickinson State Park on the east coast of Florida.

Watch for turtles and skip the bare feet if you go in. I think I saw this one somewhere near Stuart, FL, but such turtle signs are a common site, not so much the one about the rocks.

By the Suwanee again… Do not enter. Wiser words have never been spoken.

Categories: Florida | 17 Comments

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17 thoughts on “A Florida Friday: Watch out!

  1. This is my kind of post, imaginative. I spend most of my ancestry research “imagining” rather than merely clicking on links to go ever further back in time. I thought the sign which advised one to swim with caution because of alligators ……. personally I wouldn’t go anywhere near such water!


    • I definitely agree with you! I have no desire to go in those waters. Alligators are most active at dawn and dusk, and they are on the move a lot during mating season. Some people just keep those things in mind and time their swims accordingly… NOT ME!!! LOL I have no desire to encounter “underwater hazards”!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve just meandered around a bit and also read your About page which is a good read in its own right! Yours is the most organised genealogy site I have ever seen, though I have only been researching my own family tree since the beginning of this year. I especially like your categorisation on the left …… learned so much …. thank you. 🙏🙏🙏


    • Thank you! I tried from the beginning to have categories, and I try to remember to keep using them. I’d hoped they would help my family members learn more about topics that interest them; unfortunately even with categories, everyone tells me my blog is hard to navigate. But I do think if someone wants to take the time to read what I have written about someone, it’s easy to pull up the relevant posts and then just read them in the order they were written. It does take time to do that and frankly most people are pressed for time or just want to skim and scan. Nonetheless, maybe family members will find this blog helpful someday. That’s the only reason I keep plugging away at it. I have thought a a lot about going private with it, but have not made my mind up about that yet. I see pros and cons.

      That’s great you started researching your tree. It’s a fun journey, and the things you can discover are surprising and sometimes amazing. I’ve gotten some of my biggest kicks by going through old newspapers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m struggling with old newspapers at the minute, I have a subscription to British Newspapers Archive but find it hard to search, I’m either swamped with irrelevance or get absolutely nothing. Victorian era newspapers look like modern day free advertising papers just short paragraphs on everything or advertising Dy Philpotts amazing pills!


      • I have not used the British Newspaper Archives much; I did find a few mentions in Northampton papers of my mother’s stonemason ancestors who lived there. Perhaps no news is good news in the sense that nothing sensational was going on with your family members!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. While the winters in upstate New York are not for the faint of heart, after reading this I think I will stay here in N.Y. At least in the summer time (as short as it is) you can swim in clean beautiful lakes without worrying about having your arm bitten off. 🙂


  4. I am laughing about the signs. Rest areas in California often warn people to stay on the trails to avoid rattlesnakes. They are much more effective that a ‘stay off the grass’ signs! 🙂 –Curt


    • Thanks, Curt; yes, I bet those “stay on the trails” signs are very effective! I’m always on the lookout for these kinds of signs; some of them just have to make me laugh even though it’s no laughing matter. I just love that swimming hole with the 250 person max and the underwater hazards with no lifeguard on duty. Not my cuppa tea!!! LOL


  5. I enjoyed reading the various warning signs. They are so much fun – and help people enjoy Florida safely.


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