Our first goal for this trip had been to reach Apalachicola Florida. We had visited this old time Florida coastal town about 17 years earlier and we had nothing but positive memories about it.
Here are a few photos in and around town…
This is the US Hwy. 98/US Hwy. 319 bridge over a portion of Apalachicola Bay and the mouth of the Apalachicola River. The John Gorrie Bridge connects Apalachicola Florida with Eastpoint Florida. The original John Gorrie Bridge was built in 1935, replacing a ferry service between the two towns. The current 8 mile long bridge and causeway was built in 1988.
· My question was “Who in the heck was John Gorrie?” It turns out that he was focused on a critical health and comfort issue. He was born on the Island of Nevis in the Caribbean to Scottish parents. He received his medical education at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Fairfield, New York. He moved to Apalachicola in 1933. He was the resident physician in 2 hospitals, a city council member, the Postmaster, President of a local bank, Secretary of the Masonic Lodge and one of the founding vestrymen of Trinity Episcopal Church.
His medical research involved the study of tropical diseases. He experimented with cooling the sickrooms. He used ice in a basin suspended from the ceiling to achieve this goal. Cool air, being heavier, flowed down across the patient and through an opening near the floor. He went on to patent an ice making/air conditioning system but he never profited from his invention and died penniless.
This is where the Apalachicola River enters Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The Apalachicola River is about 112 mi long. This river's large watershed drains an area of approximately 19,500 square miles. The distance to its farthest headstream on the Chattahoochee River in northeast Georgia is approximately 500 miles. Its name comes from the Apalachicola Indian tribe, which used to live along the river.
· The towboat in the photo is the “Inland Cardinal”. She is 80 feet long and 26 feet wide. This towboat was built in 1977 in Pine Bluff Arkansas and she was originally named “Forest Queen”. She is now owned by the Inland Dredging Company in Dyersburg Tennessee.
The Inland Cardinal wasn’t the only towboat at work on the Apalachicola River while we were there… This smaller craft is “Mr. Gus”. It is 45 feet long and 16 feet wide. Mr. Gus was built in 1967 by Settoon Marine Inc. in Belle River Louisiana.
· Where the Apalachicola River enters the Gulf of Mexico it creates a rich series of wetlands. They include tidal marshes and seagrass meadows. Over 200,000 acres of this diverse delta complex are included within the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve. In addition, there are also dunes with grassy swales as well as coastal grasslands.
Yes indeed…one more tow boat, in this case a tiny one. This is the “Inland Tiger”. I couldn’t find any information on this tow boat… In this photo, all 3 tow boats were moving a huge dredging apparatus upriver from where it was being used just offshore.
· America’s Intracoastal Waterway follows a path up the Apalachicola River and then veers west though Lake Wimico and a series of canals to Panama City and beyond…all the way along the Texas coast. I’m sure that dredging operations are critical to this commercial and recreational water route.
This is one view of ‘downtown’ Apalachicola. Other than the remote town of Cedar Key Florida, this is about as close to ‘old’ Florida as one can find. This area used to be called ‘the lost coast’. As the bartender in our hotel told us, the area is no long ‘lost’!
Locals recognize just how valuable maintaining the ‘old Florida’ image is to their business. There is only 1 fast food outlet and 1 brand name motel in the area and both located on the edge of town. A structure height limit has also been imposed. While there is much more going on than there was when we last visited Apalachicola, it’s still quite laid back. We were warned that the area is kind of crazy busy in season however…
Apalachicola is loaded with historic structures. This is the former Sponge Exchange building. It was built in 1840 and it was one of two buildings that were used to house sponges. By 1895, between 80 and 120 men, led by Greek immigrants, were employed in the sponge trade in town… It now houses specialty gift shops.
While most sponges used today are manufactured, historically sponge fishing has been an important industry, with yearly catches from 1913 to 1938 regularly exceeding 181 tons.
Although Apalachicola seems to mostly be known for its oyster fishery, it is also a fishing port with 56 vessels registered at the port. The “Rodney and Candy” shown above was built in 1980 by Marine Builders Inc. on the Ohio River in Jeffersonville Indiana. She weighs in at 142 tons and she’s 77 feet long. Many of the fishing vessels based in Apalachicola are shrimp boats…
This old time oyster harvesting boat is on display but slowly falling apart on one of downtown Apalachicola’s main streets. If you’re interested, there is a for sale sign posted next to this boat.
· Apalachicola is the County Seat for Franklin County Florida. Roughly 2,300 people call it home. Before the founding of the town, a British trading post called "Cottonton" was founded at this site. After the acquisition of Florida by the US Government, more permanent European-American residents settled here. In 1827, the town was incorporated as "West Point". By an act of the Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida, Apalachicola received its current name in 1831.
Happy seagulls, that’s for sure! As we drove along Apalachicola’s waterfront toward the bridge, we came across this frantic scene! This was outside an oyster processing plant. As the oyster shells with scraps were dumped on the ground via a conveyor belt from inside, the gulls were waiting outside for their feast…
Like in Key West and Cedar Key, cats seem to be a permanent feature in Apalachicola, both indoors and outside. We came across this sweet little cat as we walked through one of the neighborhoods.
· More than 90% of Florida's oyster production is harvested from Apalachicola Bay.
· In 1979, Exxon relocated their experimental subsea production system from offshore Louisiana to a permitted artificial reef site off Apalachicola. This was the first effort to turn an oil platform into an artificial reef.
These 2 photos are of the front view and rear (courtyard) view of the Grady Building. Originally built in the late 1880s and rebuilt after the 1900 fire, it served as a ship’s chandlery and general store. In addition, the French government maintained a consulate on the second floor to oversee its citizen’s interests re: the shipment of timber and other goods. Today, the building is occupied by The Consulate Luxury Suites and The Grady Market. FYI…Grady Market is a quality stop for those inclined to do a little shopping.
This is an early evening view of downtown Apalachicola. Note the lack of crowds! Hooray! So peaceful and relaxing…
It’s hard to believe that at one point in its history before the development of railways throughout the Gulf States, Apalachicola was the third busiest port on the Gulf of Mexico, following only New Orleans Louisiana and Mobile Alabama!
That’s all for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.
Thanks for stopping by for a tour and a little history!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave