By Dale Cox
Sneads – For more than fifty years, Three Rivers State Park has served as an often overlooked scenic and historical treasure to the people of Jackson County. With the park now on the state chopping block, I thought it might be of interest this week to look closer at this outstanding facility.
The view from the picnic area at Three Rivers is one of the finest in all of Florida. The bluff top picnic tables provide a sweeping view of Lake Seminole, the 37,500 acre manmade reservoir created during the 1950s by the construction of the Jim Woodruff Dam between Chattahoochee and Sneads.
The lake covers the original confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers, streams called "Prehistoric Highway 101" by one Florida archaeologist. In fact, archaeological research in this area at the time of the building of the dam revealed Native American mounds, hunting camps and village sites by the hundreds in the area now under or adjoining the lake.
One of these villages, dating from slightly before the time of Christ, is located along the lakeshore of Three Rivers State Park.
For much of our nation’s early history, the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola River system was a vital transportation network. Canoes gave way to flatboats, flatboats gave way to steamboats and steamboats eventually gave way to barges, but over time inconceivable tons of cargo were moved up and down these rivers. They played a vital role in opening Northwest Florida, West Georgia and East Alabama to settlement and in the development of these states as we know them today.
The hill at the southern edge of Three Rivers is known as "Gorrie Hill" to this day. It earned this name because it was the home during the early 19th century of Florida’s famed inventor, Dr. John Gorrie. He lived there prior to moving to Apalachicola, where he went on to invent the artificial ice machine and a method of refrigeration that paved the way for such modern conveniences and necessities as refrigerators, freezers, ice makers and even air conditioning.
When Lake Seminole was created during the 1950s, federal and state officials envisioned a day when eastern Jackson County would be a recreational wonderland. Plans were made for a number of parks and boat landings that would provide access to the lake and spur economic development and residential growth in the region.
After building the lake however, plans for many of these parks fell off one by one. Three Rivers State Park and several nearby boat landings and parks (Sneads Park, Parramore Park and Landing, Neal’s Landing, etc.) are all that remain of the once ambitious program to bring economic life to eastern Jackson County.
Three Rivers became an official state park in 1955 and now offers camping, fishing, picnicing, hiking and other outdoor opportunities to people from around the world. More than 20,000 people visit each year to enjoy the beautiful lakefront setting and experience the peace and relaxation of one of Florida’s prettiest state parks.
Editor’s note: Writer and historian Dale Cox is the author The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One and several other books on local history. His books are available locally at Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna (across from the Battle of Marianna monument) or online at www.jacksoncountytimes.net.