Aucilla River view from a bridge in Lamont, Florida
Aucilla River view from a bridge in Lamont, Florida

The Aucilla River rises in Brooks County, Georgia, USA, close to Thomasville, and passes through the Big Bend region of Florida, emptying into the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachee Bay. Some early maps called it the Ocilla River. It is 89 miles (143 km) long and has a drainage basin of 747 square miles (1,930 km2). Tributaries include the Little Aucilla and Wacissa Rivers. In Florida, the Aucilla River forms the eastern border of Jefferson County, separating it from Madison County on the northern part, and from Taylor County to the south.[1][2]

During the first Spanish period in Florida the Aucilla River was the boundary between the Apalachee people and the Timucua-speaking Yustaga (or Uzachile) people.[3] The name "Aucilla" refers to an old Timucua village.[4]

Course and features

River at Nutall Rise bordering Raeburn C. Horne's fish camp
River at Nutall Rise bordering Raeburn C. Horne's fish camp

The Aucilla River flows across a karst landscape, disappearing underground and then reappearing, first at Howell Sinks near Boston, Georgia, and then approximately 30 times in the area known as the Aucilla River Sinks on the lower part of the river. Between the Florida-Georgia State line and U.S. Highway 90 the river flows through an area of springs, sinkholes and marshes without a main channel. From U.S. 90 to a few miles south of Lamont the river flows in a steep-sided valley with whitewater rapids. The Aucilla River Sinks, where many segments of the river are underground, starts north of Goose Pasture Road and runs to where the Wacissa River joins the Aucilla. The final few miles of the Aucilla below the mouth of the Wacissa flows over a broad floodplain.[5][2][6]

Although the Wacissa River is the largest tributary of the Aucilla River, it breaks into a number of braided channels before reaching the Aucilla. In the first half of the 19th Century cotton growers of Jefferson and Madison Counties wanted to carry their cotton to sea ports on the coast, but the intermittent underground segments of the Aucilla River and the narrow and shallow braided channels of the lower Wacissa did not permit the passage of barges. The Wacissa and Aucilla Navigation Company was chartered in 1831 to dig a canal from the navigable portion of the Wacissa to below Nuttall Rise, where the Aucilla returns above ground for the last time before reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Construction of the canal did not start until 1851. Slaves from local plantations were hired from their owners to dig the canal, which was cut through limestone. Work on the canal was halted in 1856, while parts of the canal were still too shallow for loaded barges. By that time, railroads had reached the plantation country, removing the urgency of the need for the canal. In the 21st Century, a proposal to rename the Slave Canal proved to be unpopular and failed.[7][8] Today, the Slave Canal is a popular paddling trail maintained by the state of Florida.[9]

Fossils and ancient people

The Aucilla River is a rich source of late Pleistocene and early Holocene animal bones and human artifacts. Close to 40 underwater archaeological sites have been identified in the river.[10] The Florida Museum of Natural History's Aucilla River Prehistory Project studied several of the sites for 15 years, ending in 1998.[11] The Page/Ladson site, which was examined again in 2012-2014 by a group sponsored by the Center for the Study of First Americans, [12] is one of the best documented and earliest of pre-Clovis culture sites in North America. As of 2006, the Sloth Hole site was "believed to be one of the three oldest Clovis sites in the Americas."[13] More than half of the "academically known worked ivory in the New World" has been collected from Sloth Hole.[14] In the early 2000s, the Paleo Aucilla project led by Dr. Michael Faught investigated the Aucilla River (the PaleoAucilla) that has been submerged by the rise in sea level since the late Pleistocene Epoch.[15] Two important sites have been found in the ancient channel of the Aucilla River that are now underwater in Apalachee Bay, the J&J Hunt and Ontolo sites.[16] Currently, Dr. Jessi Halligan from Florida State University leads the effort to study the Pleistocene conditions of the Aucilla River.[17]


Jefferson and Taylor county division, at US 98 bridge
Jefferson and Taylor county division, at US 98 bridge
Crossing Carries Image Location Coordinates


Ponder Road 30°55′09″N 83°52′59″W / 30.9193°N 83.8830°W / 30.9193; -83.8830
Lawhorne Road 30°54′44″N 83°52′44″W / 30.912170°N 83.878882°W / 30.912170; -83.878882
SR 122 Pavo to Thomasville 30°53′33″N 83°51′20″W / 30.8924°N 83.8556°W / 30.8924; -83.8556
Coffee Road Barwick to Thomasville 30°52′53″N 83°51′03″W / 30.8815°N 83.8507°W / 30.8815; -83.8507
Ozell Road 30°51′48″N 83°51′28″W / 30.8634°N 83.8579°W / 30.8634; -83.8579
Summerhill Road 30°50′39″N 83°51′25″W / 30.8442°N 83.8569°W / 30.8442; -83.8569
US 84 / SR 38 Eason to Thomasville 30°48′53″N 83°51′42″W / 30.8146°N 83.8617°W / 30.8146; -83.8617
Rail bridge CSX
Line formerly known as the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad
30°48′22″N 83°51′42″W / 30.8061°N 83.8616°W / 30.8061; -83.8616
New Hope Road Eason to Metcalf 30°47′41″N 83°51′22″W / 30.7947°N 83.8561°W / 30.7947; -83.8561
Howell Sinks The Aucilla becomes a subterranean river for 2 miles 30°47′46″N 83°50′21″W / 30.7961°N 83.8393°W / 30.7961; -83.8393
SR 33 Boston to Monticello 30°46′45″N 83°48′11″W / 30.7791°N 83.8031°W / 30.7791; -83.8031
Whitney Camp Road Boston[18] 30°44′41″N 83°47′09″W / 30.7446°N 83.7859°W / 30.7446; -83.7859
12 Mile Post Road Grooverville 30°42′44″N 83°44′42″W / 30.7122°N 83.7451°W / 30.7122; -83.7451


CR 146 Sneads Smokehouse Lake 30°35′47″N 83°43′16″W / 30.5963°N 83.7211°W / 30.5963; -83.7211
US 90 Aucilla 30°29′32″N 83°43′52″W / 30.4922°N 83.7310°W / 30.4922; -83.7310
Rail bridge CSX
Line formerly known as the Pensacola and Georgia Railroad
30°28′30″N 83°43′40″W / 30.4750°N 83.7277°W / 30.4750; -83.7277
I-10 30°26′44″N 83°43′27″W / 30.4455°N 83.7243°W / 30.4455; -83.7243
Seven Bridges Seven Bridges Road/ CR 331 30°26′06″N 83°43′18″W / 30.4349°N 83.7218°W / 30.4349; -83.7218
Rail bridge (Defunct) Lamont 30°22′20″N 83°48′23″W / 30.3721°N 83.8064°W / 30.3721; -83.8064
US 19 / US 27
Jefferson-Madison Aucilla River bridge northwest01.jpg
Lamont 30°22′15″N 83°48′25″W / 30.3707°N 83.8070°W / 30.3707; -83.8070
Walker Springs Bridge CR 257 / CR 14 30°16′24″N 83°51′26″W / 30.2732°N 83.8571°W / 30.2732; -83.8571
Oneal Side (Defunct) 30°13′52″N 83°55′07″W / 30.2310°N 83.9187°W / 30.2310; -83.9187
The Aucilla River becomes a subterranean river intermittently for over 5 miles 30°12′14″N 83°55′32″W / 30.2040°N 83.9255°W / 30.2040; -83.9255
a natural bridge Goose Pasture Road Goose Pasture 30°12′03″N 83°55′29″W / 30.2009°N 83.9248°W / 30.2009; -83.9248
a natural bridge an abandoned dirt road 30°11′41″N 83°55′38″W / 30.1948°N 83.9271°W / 30.1948; -83.9271
a natural bridge an abandoned dirt road 30°11′31″N 83°56′15″W / 30.1920°N 83.9374°W / 30.1920; -83.9374
a natural bridge an abandoned dirt road 30°11′03″N 83°57′04″W / 30.1843°N 83.9512°W / 30.1843; -83.9512
a natural bridge Nutall Rise 30°09′02″N 83°57′46″W / 30.1506°N 83.9628°W / 30.1506; -83.9628
US 98 Nutall Rise 30°08′46″N 83°58′22″W / 30.1462°N 83.9727°W / 30.1462; -83.9727
Rail bridge (Defunct) 30°07′41″N 83°58′26″W / 30.1281°N 83.9738°W / 30.1281; -83.9738

See also

Media related to Aucilla River at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ Shukovsky, Paul. 1990. Aucilla River. in Marth, Del and Marty Marth, eds. The Rivers of Florida. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. ISBN 0-910923-70-1.
  2. ^ a b Suwannee River Water Management District (April 1991). "Aucilla River System: Surface Water Improvement and Management Plan". Suwannee River Water Management District. p. 8. Archived from the original on January 25, 2017. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  3. ^ Milanich, Jerald T.; Hudson, Charles (1993). Hernando de Soto and the Indians of Florida. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida. p. 211.
  4. ^ Krakow, Kenneth K. (1975). Georgia Place-Names: Their History and Origins (PDF). Macon, GA: Winship Press. p. 10. ISBN 0-915430-00-2.
  5. ^ "Big Bend Salt Water Paddling Trail: Aucilla River - Econofina River" (PDF). Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. p. 14. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  6. ^ Lenz, Richard J. "How Long is the Aucilla River?" (PDF). Aucilla River. pp. 7–10. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  7. ^ Portman, Jennifer (June 7, 2014). "Exploring Jefferson County's Slave Canal". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  8. ^ Begos, Kevin (January 15, 2006). "Residents: Don't Rewrite Slave Canal History". Lakeland Ledger. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  9. ^ "Wacissa River Paddling Guide | Florida Department of Environmental Protection". Retrieved 2020-07-06.
  10. ^ "Aucilla River" (PDF). Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy. November 2006. p. 22. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  11. ^ "The Aucilla River Prehistory Project". The Florida Museum of Natural History. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  12. ^ "Anthropology Student and Faculty Excavate at Submerged Prehistoric Site". Indiana University of Pennsylvania Department of Anthropology. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  13. ^ Dunbar, James S. (March 2007). "Temporal Problems and Alternatives Towards the Establishment of Paleoindian Site Chronologies in Florida and the Adjacent Coastal Southeast" (PDF). The Florida Anthropologist. 60 (1): 5. ISSN 0015-3893. Retrieved May 14, 2018 – via Florida State University.
  14. ^ Hemmings, Andy (April 1996). "Sloth Hole site excavations". Aucilla River Times. IX – via Florida Museum of Natural History.
  15. ^ Faught, Michael K (May 1999). "PaleoAucilla Prehistory - "Clovis Underwater '98"". Florida Museum of Natural History. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  16. ^ Faught, Michael K. "Finding Submerged Paleoindian and Archaic Archaeological Sites: Experiences from Karstic NW Florida" (PDF). Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  17. ^ Halligan, Jessi J.; Waters, Michael R.; Perrotti, Angelina; Owens, Ivy J.; Feinberg, Joshua M.; Bourne, Mark D.; Fenerty, Brendan; Winsborough, Barbara; Carlson, David; Fisher, Daniel C.; Stafford, Thomas W. (2016-05-01). "Pre-Clovis occupation 14,550 years ago at the Page-Ladson site, Florida, and the peopling of the Americas". Science Advances. 2 (5): e1600375. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1600375. ISSN 2375-2548.
  18. ^ "USGS TNM 2.0 Viewer". United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2 October 2015.

Further reading

Coordinates: 30°5′9″N 83°59′25″W / 30.08583°N 83.99028°W / 30.08583; -83.99028