Radar Hill in Citrus County

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“The Valley”

There is a place off the beaten path in Withlacoochee State Forest known to many locals as “Radar Hill” and when I first learned of that name I wanted to find out more about the history behind it. I have hiked around the area and this part of the forest reminds me of a scenic valley because of the rolling hills and karst formations. This section of the forest is located in Citrus County along the Brooksville Ridge. “The Brooksville Ridge is a linear, positive-relief topographic feature extending from northern Citrus County, through Hernando County, and into southern Pasco County.” These areas of the florida have a lot of hilly and karst terrain.

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Similar Radar Base in North Carolina

During the Cold War years starting around 1958 to 1970, there was a radar facility located atop the one of the hills in the area. It was known as the “Inverness Gap-Filler Annex,” the radar facility was operated by the U.S. Air Force as part of a nationwide network of air-defense early-warning surveillance radars. The intension of the base was to watch the skies for attacking Soviet bombers and thanks in part to this radar network all across the country no attack ever came. Due to the curvature of the earth, as well as hills, river valleys, and other obstacles, gaps existed at lower elevations where the long-range radars could not detect targets so these radar sites were a vital defense network.

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Radar Hill Area

The reason this site was chose is because “Radar Hill” itself was one of the highest points in the Withlacoochee State Forest, and offered a clear line of sight for many miles. Placing the radar on top of the limestone hills plugged the holes.

I am not sure of the exact timeframe but sometime after the site was used by the military it then became the location of a limestone mining operation. The land was mined and the hills were excavated. The radar and any evidence from the base were removed or destroyed during that time. The mining operations ceased eventually and the area became part of Withlacoochee State Forest. New trees were planted and slowly nature has been reclaiming the land here. The former mine now appears as open valleys through the forest which makes for a scenic experience. I myself have nicknamed the area “The Valley”. Check the link below on How Radar Hill got it’s name for more photos and information.

The site is public land now although there are no marked hiking trails here so it can be accessed from some of the old roads and paths around the area. Be cautious if you explore around and some areas within this section have been fenced off with no trespassing signs.

My Video

“The Valley” in Withlacoochee State Forest

Resources

How Radar Hill Got It’s Name

Withlacoochee State Forest

Brooksville Ridge

 

Exploring the Trails at Ichetucknee Springs State Park

Itchatucknee Springs

Itchatucknee Springs

When you think of Ichetucknee Springs State Park you may envision the beautiful springs there. But at the North Entrance of the park there are some scenic and historical trails you can explore. There are three different hiking trails. Blue Hole Trail: A half-mile walk through the Ichetucknee forest and cypress flood plain leads to Blue Hole Spring, the largest spring in the park. Trestle Point Trail: This shaded path winds along the crystal clear waters of the Ichetucknee River. The self-guided trail will take you back in time to the early 1900s, when phosphate ore was mined in the area. Pine Ridge Trail: A frequently overlooked area of the park is the majestic sandhill, with its towering longleaf pine and wide open vistas. View the natural diversity of this unique and vanishing ecosystem.

I particularly enjoyed the Trestle Point trail because of it’s history. In the early 1900’s they mined for phosphate in this area and you can still see evidence from that period as you walk along the old tram roads which are now part of the nature trail. I found large pits and even an old dragline shovel along the trail. I followed the trails towards the river and found the site where a small trestle used to cross. The phosphate would be hauled out of the mines across the river over the trestle. Here is some history I found on the area from the park website“Phosphate mining in the park covered two major periods. Exploration mining began prior to the turn of the 20th century, consisting of mule and wheelbarrow-assisted excavation in nearby sinkholes and depressions. Later, the mine used boilers, pumps and steam shovels for ore extraction. A series of narrow-gauge railroads were installed to cart the ore out to local railroad lines. This early phase of mining was never as intrusive as our present-day methods, but many pits were left in the park and are still present today, especially around the Head Spring area. Another relic of the phosphate era is the series of ‘tram beds’ crisscrossing the park, left behind from the railroad conveyances.”

If you plan on visiting the springs at the North entrance don’t forget to check out these trails!

My Videos

Old Dragline Bucket
Old Phosphate Mines
Old Tram Road
Trestle Point

Resources

Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Park History

Trails at North Entrance

Trails at North Entrance

Tram Road

Tram Road

Trestle Point (where the Trestle Was)

Trestle Point (where the Trestle Was)

Exploring an old Phosphate Mine

Exploring an old Phosphate Mine

Old Dragline Shovel

Old Dragline Shovel

Exploring Holder Mine in Citrus Wildlife Management Area

Shovel Mark at Holder Mine

Shovel Mark from Digging at Holder Mine

I explored around Holder Mine in Citrus Wildlife Management Area located in Withlacoochee State Forest and found some interesting things left over from the old mining operations. At one time phosphate was mined here but long since then nature has reclaimed the area so it’s nice to experience the trails around the mine. Along the way I found some old pillars and a large foundation near one of the pits.

The area where the pillars are seem to link into the old railroad grade that passes by. There were a couple of them left around two feet tall and you could see where something was attached to them. Closer to the area by the railroad grade was a series of larger pyramid-shaped pillars as well. These may have been used as some kind of foundation to something. Maybe a water tower for example but I am not sure.

As I explored near the bottom of the mine where it has filled up with water I saw a large foundation down there. You could see where some kind of structure stood on top of it. If you have any suggestions on what some of this stuff could be feel free to comment. I posted some photos and be sure to watch my videos for a good look around the area.

My Videos

Mining Ruins at Holder Mine

Mining Ruins at Holder Mine 2

Possible Water Tower Foundation

Pillar Remains

Hiking Around The Mine

Resources

Citrus WMA

Withlacoochee State Forest

Florida Hikes! Citrus Hiking Trail

My Hike at Holder Mine

Exploring Holder Mine

Exploring Holder Mine

Dig Mark at Mine

Dig Mark at Mine

Pillar by Mine

Pillar by Mine

Pillar by Mine

Pillar by Mine

Possible Water Tower Foundation

Possible Water Tower Foundation

Foundation by Mine

Foundation by Mine

Foundation by Mine

Foundation by Mine

Oriole Mines in Withlacoochee State Forest

Oriole Mines

Oriole Mines

In The Withlacoochee State Forest there is an old townsite called “Oriole”. It was a small town with a population of around 100 people or so that was established in the early 1880’s. The town itself was short-lived and only lasted until the late 1800’s and isn’t that far from the old townsite of Croom. Another nearby ghost town that died out around the same time.

On a hike out here I found what looks to be an old mine in the woods. I managed to find the old tram road where you can see the surrounding areas had been dug up. These are known as The Oriole Mines and were managed by the Oriole Mining Company. I believe they would mine phosphate up until around 1915 which would’ve been after the town was gone. Initially I set out not knowing what I would find and little did I know I would discover yet another connection to history on this old town.

My Videos

Oriole Mines

Exploring Oriole Mines

Resources

Withlacoochee State Forest

Hernando County History

Oriole History

Oriole Mines