Torreya State Park is located in sunny Florida and plays a crucial role in maintaining the unique plants and animal’s species. Two other critical roles the park is known for are; the essential communities that are of regional importance, and the water quality of the Apalachicola River, which flows into the productive Apalachicola Bay. Torreya State Park and the Apalachicola River are both historic and rich in history.
To find the beginning history of Torreya Park you must go back to the civil war. This is the time when the high bluffs were called home by two hundred Confederate Soldiers. As you hike through this park you can still see where the cannons were placed. It was in the 1840’s where the plantation owner, Jason Gregory and his family, called home. The estate of Jason Gregory was three thousand square feet and originally set on the west banks of the Apalachicola River. However, in the late 1930’s Gregory’s home was given to the Civilian Conservation Corp. On the other hand this donation came with a stipulation which was that the home be dismantled and moved. The workers of the Civilian Conservation Corp began taking apart the home brick by brick and board by board. These boards and bricks were then loaded on a barge which carried these items to the east bank. It is here that the re-building of this old home began and where it stands and can still be seen today.
One of the most populated sites in Florida was located at the Apalachicola Region. Along the lower part of the Apalachicola River Valley you will find an abundance of the earliest places along former and present banks. Along the waterways and river swamps you can find scattered about a mound of clam and oyster shells which are remnants of the early inhabitants. In the 1700’s the Creek Indians from Georgia and Alabama began to settle along the Apalachicola River. The word Apalachicola comes from the Indian word which means “people on the other side.” In 1816 one or more fights happened between the Americans Forces and the Creek Indians and their black allies. It is possible that “Bloody Bluff” is the site of these skirmishes. The Black allies of the Creek Indians occupied the “Negro Fort” which today is known as Fort Gadsden and located at nearby Prospect Bluff. During this time cotton was shipped by steamboat from the interior plantations to Apalachicola for export. However, during the Civil War the Union Forces formed a barrier at Apalachicola Bay which prevented the steamboats from traveling. When the war concluded lumber became the new product for shipping. Along the Apalachicola River saw mills began to spring up. Passing through the port of Apalachicola were millions of board feet of lumber. This timber came from the long leaf pine and cypress trees. The pine trees served a secondary purpose, its sap. The sap was distilled into resin and turpentine, which collectively became known as naval stores.
Torreya State Park was opened to the public in 1935 and is one of Florida’s original state parks. Credit to the creation of this park goes to the Florida Board of Parks and the Civilian Conservation Corp. No matter what you love about Torreya State Park whether it’s for the proficient craftsmanship by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the rebuilding of the original Jason Gregory home or stepping into one of its barracks, or by the fascinating stone bridge. Today the Torreya State Park has become one of Florida’s scenic places because of its high bluffs that overlook the Apalachicola River. The name of the park, Torreya, comes from one of the oldest and rarest trees. These trees grow only in the ravines and on the bluffs of Torreya State Park. The Torreya Tree became so popular that it almost caused its destruction. In the 1800’s there were approximately six hundred thousand of these trees living in the Apalachicola Valley, but today there is only about two hundred left. About 1835 the Florida Torreya was identified by botanist Hardy Bryan Croom. Croom gave it this name in honor of a well-known scientist, Dr. John Torrey. The tree was well-known by the locals as the “stinking cedar” because when cut or bruised it gives off a strong odor. The park is well-known for its hiking, camping, picnicking, and bird watching. More than one hundred species of birds have been seen here. The hardwood trees of this forest display some of the finest fall colors in Florida. You can also find the park giving daily tours of the rebuilt home of Jason Gregory.
In regards to the Apalachicola River it now separates the Eastern and Central time zones. During mid-April or May if you paddle down the quiet creeks and bayous you will see a variety of trees and shrubs, including the Tupelo, Black Gum, and the Titi. Another of your senses that will be activated is your ears as you listen to loud and steady hum of honey Bees. The only place on earth that Tupelo Honey is made is right along the Apalachicola River Valley. In Conclusion you can now see why Torreya State Parks and Apalachicola River is historic and rich in history.