Rising from Brooks County, Georgia and passing through the Big Bend region of Florida and finally emptying into the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachee Bay is the Aucilla River. Eight-nine miles long, the river has a drainage basin of 747 square miles, and on some earlier maps was sometimes called the Ocilla River. In Florida, the river forms the eastern border of Jefferson County which separates it from Madison County on the northern part, and from Taylor County to the south.

The Aucilla River served as a boundary between the Apalachee people and the Timucua-speaking Yustage (also known as the Uzachile) people during the first Spanish period in Florida. “Aucilla” refers to an old Timucua village.

Throughout the river, many segments flow through springs, sinkholes, and marshes without the main channel. In the Acullia River Sinks, parts of the river are underground, which begins at Lamont and ends where the Wacissa River joins the Aucilla.

There are several tributaries of the Aucilla River, with the largest being the Wacissa River, and it breaks into several braided channels before reaching the Aucilla. Cotton growers from both Jefferson and Madison Counties in the 19thCentury tried to carry their cotton to seaports on the coast but were unable to due to both the shallow braided channels and underground segments of the Aucilla River.

In 1831 the Wacissa and Aucilla Navigation Company was chartered to dig a canal from the navigable portion of the Wacissa to below the Nuttail Rise. This is where the Aucilla returns above ground before reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Using slaves from local plantations, the construction began until 1851, digging and cutting through limestone. By 1856, the work on the canal was stopped since the railroads had reached the plantation country and removed the urgency for the canal.

Ancient people and fossils

Proving to be a rich source of the late Pleistocene and early Holocene, animal bones and human artifacts have been identified in close to 40 underwater archaeological sites in the Aucilla River.

At the Page/Ladson site, it is one of the best-documented and earlier pre-Clovis culture sites in North America. The Sloth Hole site in 2006 was believed to be one of three oldest Clovis sites in the Americas and more than half of the academically known work of the New World has been collected from the Sloth Hole.

Studies by the Aucilla River Prehistory Project extended to include the ancient channel of the Aucilla River (the PaleoAucilla) that has been submerged by the rise in sea level since the late Pleistocene Epoch. The two most important sites the J & J Hunt and Ontoio in the ancient channel are now underwater in the Apalachee Bay.

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