SANTA ROSA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — Here on the Gulf Coast, the beaches are the centerpiece for fun and recreation. But the area is rich with other waterways, like bays and rivers. The Blackwater River in Northwest Florida is one of those waterways. It’s a place where time, nature, and history come together.
“When you come on this river, it’s like everything is behind you,” says Ken Ponsell, owner of Blackwater Bay Tours.
A recent cruise up the Blackwater River in Santa Rosa County, Florida proved to be a cruise back in time and back into history when life, and the economy, all but revolved around the river.
“This was a really huge waterway. They floated all the logs down from the Blackwater Forest, all the way down to the Bagdad sawmill,” says Ponsell. “There were a lot of brick mills along here, too, because you need the water to help make bricks. They had barges and sailing vessels.”
Some of those sailing vessels were scuttled in the river after the advent of steam-powered ships. Some of those sunken vessels remain in the river today.
“There’s 28 shipwrecks out here. After steam, they lost their useful life and so they would find a place and they would scuttle them,” says Ponsell.
Today, the riverbank is dotted with a few houses and parks and is home to the downtown Milton Riverwalk. But the Blackwater is mostly used for family fishing and boating activities. Ponsell wonders if people realize just how much the river has to give.
“It ends at the Blackwater Bay and the Blackwater Bay connects to East Bay, Escambia Bay, Pensacola Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, so literally from here, you can have access to the world.”
And, if the river could talk, what would it say?
“It would say enjoy me, love me and respect me. Take care of me. I’m here for you but take care of me.”
For more information on Blackwater Bay Tours or efforts to preserve the Blackwater River, go to these links.