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.
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. The name "Aucilla" refers to an old Timucua village.
Course and features
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.
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. Today, the Slave Canal is a popular paddling trail maintained by the state of Florida.
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. The Florida Museum of Natural History's Aucilla River Prehistory Project studied several of the sites for 15 years, ending in 1998. The Page/Ladson site, which was examined again in 2012-2014 by a group sponsored by the Center for the Study of First Americans,  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." More than half of the "academically known worked ivory in the New World" has been collected from Sloth Hole. 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. 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.Currently, Dr. Jessi Halligan from Florida State University leads the effort to study the Pleistocene conditions of the Aucilla River.
|SR 122||Pavo to Thomasville|
|Coffee Road||Barwick to Thomasville|
|US 84 / SR 38||Eason to Thomasville|
Line formerly known as the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad
|New Hope Road||Eason to Metcalf|
|Howell Sinks||The Aucilla becomes a subterranean river for 2 miles|
|SR 33||Boston to Monticello|
|Whitney Camp Road||Boston|
|12 Mile Post Road||Grooverville|
|CR 146||Sneads Smokehouse Lake|
Line formerly known as the Pensacola and Georgia Railroad
|Seven Bridges||Seven Bridges Road/ CR 331|
|US 19 / US 27||Lamont|
|Walker Springs Bridge||CR 257 / CR 14|
|Oneal Side (Defunct)|
|The Aucilla River becomes a subterranean river intermittently for over 5 miles|
|a natural bridge||Goose Pasture Road||Goose Pasture|
|a natural bridge||an abandoned dirt road|
|a natural bridge||an abandoned dirt road|
|a natural bridge||an abandoned dirt road|
|a natural bridge||Nutall Rise|
|US 98||Nutall Rise|
Media related to Aucilla River at Wikimedia Commons
- 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.
- 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.
- Milanich, Jerald T.; Hudson, Charles (1993). Hernando de Soto and the Indians of Florida. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida. p. 211.
- Krakow, Kenneth K. (1975). Georgia Place-Names: Their History and Origins (PDF). Macon, GA: Winship Press. p. 10. ISBN 0-915430-00-2.
- "Big Bend Salt Water Paddling Trail: Aucilla River - Econofina River" (PDF). Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. p. 14. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
- Lenz, Richard J. "How Long is the Aucilla River?" (PDF). Aucilla River. pp. 7–10. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
- Portman, Jennifer (June 7, 2014). "Exploring Jefferson County's Slave Canal". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
- Begos, Kevin (January 15, 2006). "Residents: Don't Rewrite Slave Canal History". Lakeland Ledger. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
- "Wacissa River Paddling Guide | Florida Department of Environmental Protection". floridadep.gov. Retrieved 2020-07-06.
- "Aucilla River" (PDF). Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy. November 2006. p. 22. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
- "The Aucilla River Prehistory Project". The Florida Museum of Natural History. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
- "Anthropology Student and Faculty Excavate at Submerged Prehistoric Site". Indiana University of Pennsylvania Department of Anthropology. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
- 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.
- Hemmings, Andy (April 1996). "Sloth Hole site excavations". Aucilla River Times. IX – via Florida Museum of Natural History.
- Faught, Michael K (May 1999). "PaleoAucilla Prehistory - "Clovis Underwater '98"". Florida Museum of Natural History. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
- Faught, Michael K. "Finding Submerged Paleoindian and Archaic Archaeological Sites: Experiences from Karstic NW Florida" (PDF). Retrieved May 13, 2018.
- 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.
- "USGS TNM 2.0 Viewer". United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
- Balfour, R. C. 2002. In Search of the Aucilla. Colson Printing Company, Valdosta, GA.
- Balsillie, J. H., G. H. Means, and J. S. Dunbar. 2006. The Ryan/Harley site: Sedimentology of an inundated Paleoindian site in north Florida. Geoarchaeology 21:363-391.
- Dunbar, J. S. 2006. Pleistocene-Holocene Climate Change: Chronostratigraphy and Geoclimate of the Southeast United States, Chapter 5. Pages 103-158 in S. D. Webb, ed. First Floridians and Last Mastodons: the Page-Ladson Site on the Aucilla River. Springer Press, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
- Dunbar, J. S., C. A. Hemmings, P. K. Vojnovski, S. D. Webb, and W. Stanton. 2005. The Ryan/Harley Site 8Je1004: A Suwannee Point Site In The Wacissa River, North Florida. Pages 81–96 in R. Bonnichsen, B. T. Lepper, D. J. Stanford, and M. R. Waters, eds. Paleoamerican origins: beyond Clovis. Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University Press, College Station, TX.
- Dunbar, J. S., S. D. Webb, and M. K. Faught. 1988. Page/Ladson (8Je591): An Underwater Paleo-Indian Site in Northwestern Florida. Florida Anthropologist 41:442-452.
- Fisher, D. C. and D. L. Fox. 2006. Five Years in the Life of an Aucilla River Mastodon. Pages 343-377 in S. D. Webb, ed. First Floridians and Last Mastodons: the Page-Ladson Site on the Aucilla River. Springer, Dordrecht, the Netherlands.
- Hoppe, K. A. and P. Koch. 2006. The Biogeochemistry of the Aucilla River Fauna, Chapter 13. Pages 379-401 in S. D. Webb, ed. First Floridians and Last Mastodons: the Page-Ladson Site on the Aucilla River. Springer Press, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
- Hoppe, K. A. and P. L. Koch. 2007. Reconstructing the migration patterns of late Pleistocene mammals from northern Florida, USA. Quaternary Research 68:347-352.
- Newsom, L. A. and M. Mihlbachler. 2006. Mastodons (Mammut americanum) Diet Foraging Patterns Based on Analysis of Dung Deposits, Chapter 10. Pages 263-331 in S. D. Webb, ed. First Floridians and Last Mastodons: the Page-Ladson Site on the Aucilla River. Springer Press, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
- Newsom, L. A. 2006. Paleoenvironmental Aspects of the Macrophytic Plant Assemblage from Page-Ladson, Chapter 7. Pages 181-211 in S. D. Webb, ed. First Floridians and Last Mastodons: the Page-Ladson Site on the Aucilla River. Springer Press, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
- Serbousek, D. 1983. Explorations of a Paleo-Indian site on the Aucilla River. Florida Anthropologist 36:88-97.
- Webb, S. D. 1974. Underwater Paleontology of Florida's Rivers. National Geographic Society Research Reports 1968 Projects:479-481.
- Webb, S. D. 2006. First Floridians and last Mastodons: the Page-Ladson site in the Aucilla River. Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
- Webb, S. D. and J. S. Dunbar. 2006. Carbon Dates, Chapter 4. Pages 83–102 in S. D. Webb, ed. First Floridians and Last Mastodons: the Page-Ladson Site on the Aucilla River. Springer Press, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
- Webb, S. D. and C. A. Hemmings. 2001. Ivory and bone tools from late Pleistocene deposits in the Aucilla and Wacissa River, North-Central Florida. Pages 1–8 in B. A. Purdy, ed. Enduring records: the environmental and cultural heritage of wetlands. Oxbow Books, Oxford, England.
- Webb, S. D., J. T. Milanich, R. Alexon, and J. S. Dunbar. 1984. A Bison antiquus Kill Site, Wacissa River, Jefferson County, Florida. American Antiquity 49:384-392.
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Aucilla River