On this adventure I explored an old homestead site that is now part of Goethe State Forest located in Levy County. There is a lot of history here along with a scenic wilderness so I always enjoy visiting. I’ve seen everything from railroad, ranching and turpentine history here. So it seems like there is an always adventure that awaits when I explore this wilderness.
This area was located by a pond and the homestead and pond can be seen on old aerial photos from the 1940’s but not sure how much older than that it may be. When I look at these documents it is amazing to see how the areas have changed over the years compared to modern times. Nature has reclaimed most of these sites. Back then this section was cleared out around the homestead and the pond would have been a good water source. There may have been some livestock on the property as well.
Today the area is popular for equestrians and some of the horse trails go by the site. I found an overgrown path off of the trail that may have been a road to the homestead at one time. So I followed that for a little while until I came into a clearing by the pond, I could see some pieces of wood and metal scattered around. I was by the homestead area and the same pond that I saw on the aerial photo was just through the clearing and surrounding woods.
That is an incredible feeling standing in a place like this and you think of times gone by, who lived here and the memories that were made. It is lost to nature now but you still get a sense of the past in these places. Seeing some of the remnants from those days around the area only adds to that feeling. So as I roamed around I also found what appeared to be a well or cistern used for storing and collecting water. Nearby I saw some old bricks and part of a foundation. I spent a lot of time exploring the woods here and you can’t help but think what else may be out here. That is part of the mystery in exploring these places. Later I went down by the pond along the wooded shoreline and just took in the scenery, thinking “this is the real Florida, the old Florida…”
Below are some photos and a link to my video enjoy and thank you!
One of my favorite areas at Goethe State Forest is where an old cypress tree still stands known as Goethe Giant. There is a trail and boardwalk that leads you to this majestic tree that is estimated to be over 900 years old.
During the 1800’s and early 1900’s many of these cypress trees were cut down during the logging booms because this type of wood is so valuable and for its durability. The Florida wilderness was once covered with these old trees, many dating back 1,000’s of years. Some still remain today but can be difficult to find, but others like this one are nicely preserved along a trail where you can visit and experience this beautiful tree.
Check out my video and photos below to get a glimpse of this tree, the forestry website link posted also has a map indicating where the tree is along the Big Cypress Boardwalk Trail. There is a forest road you can access there which takes you to the trailhead.
This is a video I put together from an area known as the Watermelon Pond Tract in Levy County. It is actually a section of Goethe State Forest but just not connected to the main part. There is a trailhead that can be found near the town of Archer known as Bailey Mine Trailhead.
If you study old maps of this area there is actually a mine here known as Bailey Mine. It was used for phosphate mining in the early 1900’s. On this adventure I set out to find the mine and see what else I could discover along the way. There was also turpentine operations in the area as well so I thought I may see some evidence from that.
There is a railroad line that was used back then, today it is abandoned and mostly overgrown. I figured if I could find that I could navigate my way towards Bailey Mine since the railroad went right to it.
I found the railroad line along one of the hiking trails and followed that for several miles, checking out some of the scenery and areas along the way. I did find some Herty cup fragments from the turpentine industry and took some time to explore that history as well.
I managed to follow the railroad line to where it ends at Bailey Mine. This mine is filled in with water so who knows how deep it really goes. The other mines I found in the area were dry so you could get a really good view of how much digging was going on and how deep they were. Back then you would’ve seen machinery all around these places. As I explored Bailey Mine I went along the bottom of it and circled around the entire mine.
I really enjoyed this adventure I had explored this area a few years before but wanted to return to see what else I may be able to uncover. The beauty and history of these places always keep you coming back for more. Check out my video to see my adventure, thanks!