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Spruce Bluff Preserve!


Wetland
Wetland, Spruce Bluff South

Spruce Bluff Natural Area is a 97 acre site consisting of mixed upland and wetland natural communities including; scrub, scrubby flatwoods, mesic flatwoods, and depression marsh. This natural area is nestled in the heart of a Port St Lucie neighborhood that lays along the banks of the St Lucie River. The property has two separate unique pasts; as it was once the site of a 1890’s pioneer settlement and is also home to one of the largest AIS Native American mound in South Florida (dating back to pre-ceramic periods).

There are two 1/2 mile interpretive trails leading from the parking area, each with a different take on these two very different settlements separated by time.

The trail head and parking area is located off the north end of Southbend Blvd in Port St. Lucie, FL. From Port St. Lucie Blvd, head south on SE Floresta Dr, take a left at Southbend Blvd and the first left after the C-24 canal bridge onto Peru St. Travel 0.5 miles and take left onto Dar. The Parking area will be on your left.

Text Source: South Florida Water Management District.


Spruce Bluff South Trail Takes You to an Indian Mound!

This is a nice hike right in my home town of Port Saint Lucie, Florida.

My Wife Dolores, Bindi and Oreo
Dolores, Bindi and Oreo, Spruce Bluff South

We decided to do this hike because it was relatively cool outside and we just wanted to get out of the house with the pandemic going on. There were some people around but everyone kept a safe distance.

Beautiful White Flower
Beautiful White Flower, Spruce Bluff South

When you get to the parking area, you want to hike on the south trail to get to the Indian Mound.

Be careful when you get to the trail that circles the mound. We went left instead of going right and we found ourselves off the trail! I would recommmend staying to the right when you get to the "Y" because there are arrows indicating which way to go.

We did not do the northern trail this day but have done it in the past. The trails here are easily done in one day. They are long enough but not too long. The northern trail will take you over to the water if you want to have a look or put your toe in!


History

While there were many indigenous cultures in the area prior to European colonization, the earliest known people to inhabit Florida were the Paleo Indians. Present from 10,000 - 6,500 BC, the Paleo Indians were nomadic, traveling intermittently between water sources and hunting areas. During the Malabar period (750 BC to 1750 AD), the indigenous peoples became less transient. Many of these peoples inhabited the coastal areas of Florida. The relatively abundant resources of the area as well as plentiful freshwater supplies made the area ideal.

Most information about the indigenous people that lived in this area prior to the Seminoles, is “Johnathan Dickinson’s Journal or GOD’S PROTECTING PROVIDENCE; Being the narrative of a Journey from PORT ROYAL in JAMAICA to PHILADELPHIA August 23, 1696 to April 1, 1697”. He was one of twenty-five crew & passengers aboard the ship, Barkentine, and was shipwrecked by a hurricane in September of 1696 in what is now the Hobe Sound area. Dickinson writes, in “vivid detail” what these Indians looked like as well as how they lived. He was the first to describe these people. The main town of the AIS (pronounced Eye ees), Dickinson refers to as “Jece” and also Santa Lucia, was located on the barrier island a little to the north of the Fort Pierce Inlet. Their territory ranged from Jece northward to just west of Cocoa. The Jeagas lived from St. Lucia (Stuart inlet) south to the Hobe Sound. The main village was located on the north end of Jupiter Island. The Jeagas turned Dickinson and his group over to the “Casseekey”, or local chief of the AIS, October 1, 1696. They were described as a primitive group that did not plant crops but survived on collection of plants, animal and marine life.

Wetlands were very important to early inhabitants as a source for food, The AIS were collectors and harvested snails, turtles, frogs, alligators and freshwater clams from the water. They fished with a “staff” and “got as many fish as would serve twenty men” in 2 hours which indicates how plentiful resources were in the area. Dickinson indicates that fish bladders were used as ear ornaments. Most mounds and villages were located near wetlands. In addition to utilizing the wetlands as a food source, water was important for drinking, cooking and cleaning.

Large Nest
Large Nest, Spruce Bluff South

The Mound (8SL10) is approximately 180 feet in diameter and 20 feet high. It took great effort to construct it considering they had none of our modern day “earth moving equipment”, this had to be a very difficult and time consuming process considering all they had were fiber baskets in which to hand carry all the fill! How much fill do you think that is? 20,000 gallons? How many years do YOU think it took?

The Mound, as well as others of the area, most likely belonged to either the AIS or Jaegas people. It is believed that mounds on this coast were used for burial purposes. Early excavations indicate that the Indians “would bury their people in a sitting position alongside, and on top of one another, then would pile baskets of sand on them.” A man’s possessions would be smashed and placed in the mound with him so “the spirits of his tools could join his spirit” in the afterlife. The descendants of these people believe that anyone that walks on these mounds will desecrate their ancestors. To observe their wishes and prevent erosion, Please stay off the mound.

Looting - This area has had signs of destruction where people have dug into the mound to find artifacts. Several “authorized” digs were performed on the mound, yielding a few small bone fragments. To preserve archaeological and cultural features of the Preserve, no digging is allowed.

The Mound was first “discovered” in 1853 by Mr. M.A. Williams, a surveyor that was surveying for settlers who would be homesteading the area because of the free land available under the “Armed Occupation Act” of 1842.

The AIS population in the area suffered a sharp decline in the decades following Dickinson’s contact with them. One main reason for this is undoubtedly diseases introduced by Europeans. Another significant factor is related to the destruction of the Spanish mission system in northern Florida. Removal of the Spanish allowed Creeks, Yamassee and other English-armed Indians (aligned with the English) to extend their domain to South Florida. The “English-Indians” made frequent raids of the AIS, killing many and carrying even more to Charleston, South Carolina where they were sold as slaves to the English.

By 1715 most of the AIS were gone so that when the British took possession of Florida in 1763, the AIS were nearly extinct. After their disappearance, the Seminoles (a mix of Micossukee, Creek and Choctaw) occupied Florida.

…Dickinson continues to write that “these people have no compassion on their own aged declining people when they were past their labor, nor on others of their own which lay under any declining condition; for the younger is served before the elder, and the elder people both men and women are slaves to the younger”. This may have also led to their decline…….

This trail has only covered just a small portion of items the natives used that are actually at this site. The AIS had to be extremely resourceful and creative to survive the hardships of outdoor living. Other materials used for cooking, hunting and fishing tools, arrows, bows, musical instruments, ceremonial items, clothing, medicines and drugs include Pond Apple, Marlberry, Giant Cane, Hickory, Sugarberry, Cocoplum, Sawgrass, White Stopper, Strangler Fig, Florida Privet, Yaupon Holly, Cedar, Bottle Gourd, Stagger Bush, Red Mulberry, Simpson Eugenia, Red Maple, and the list is just endless!

Text Source: South Florida Water Management District.


Spruce Bluff North Pioneer Trail

My wife and I decided not to hike the north trail today but have hiked it in the past and I will be adding another page soon covering this trail. Be sure to check back and have a look. Enjoy your hike!






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