While visiting Florida in January, I spent a weekend in Carrabelle, a small town in Franklin County with only 1,300 residents. Franklin County is very rural and only recently got its first traffic light. As described by its mayor, “Carrabelle, Florida, a historic working community, is located right on the Gulf of Mexico in the eastern Florida Panhandle. A true fishing village, its people have been harvesting from the sea for more than 100 years. Shrimping, oystering, commercial and recreational game fishing together with lumber, turpentine, flour mills, the railroad and tourism have been the mainstays of Carrabelle’s economic development over the years.”
I have a friend, Jim, that lives in Carrabelle, and when I visit we go fishing and I do as much photography as possible, because I love Carrabelle’s natural and unspoiled rivers, coastline, and woodlands. I also enjoy Carrabelle because it is unlike most of Florida’s coast, having no large condominiums, hotels, tourist attractions, and tourists.
In January when I was there, Jim, who lives on the Carrabelle River, lowered his boat into the water late in the afternoon, and we went up the river to the New River. The sun was low in the sky, illuminating the pine trees of Tate’s Hell State Forest in a warm glow. There was only a slight breeze at times, so the water was mirror-like, reflecting the trees, shoreline and sky. The unspoiled views were breathtaking. As I often say when in a place of such beauty, “I could live there.”
As we rode up the river for a couple of miles, with each turn of the river came another stunning view. I was constantly taking photos as Jim maneuvered his boat, trying not to disturb the water with the boat’s wake. As I was shooting, I was hoping that my camera was capturing what I was seeing and thoroughly enjoying. I was reminded of how my daughter, who works for the Florida Park Service, describes such views: “The Real Florida”. Fortunately, there is some of the real Florida left to enjoy.
Background Information The New River originates north of the Apalachicola National Forest and joins with the Crooked River above Carrabelle to become the Carrabelle River, which flows into St. George Sound and the Gulf of Mexico, as shown in the map’s insert.
How Tate’s Hell Swamp Got Its Name Local legend has it that a farmer by the name of Cebe Tate, armed with only a shotgun and accompanied by his hunting dogs, journeyed into the swamp in search of a panther that was killing his livestock. Although there are several versions of this story, the most common describes Tate as being lost in the swamp for seven days and nights, bitten by a snake, and drinking from the murky waters to curb his thirst. Finally he came to a clearing near Carrabelle, living only long enough to murmur the words, “My name is Cebe Tate, and I just came from Hell!” Cebe Tate’s adventure took place in 1875 and ever since, the area has been known as Tate’s Hell, the legendary and forbidden swamp. (From Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website)
As you can see from the images, I believe I successfully captured some of the beauty of the New River and Tate’s Hell.
The next morning I got up early to shoot the sunrise from Jim’s dock. I used one of those images to open this article. I have thoroughly enjoyed my visits to Carrabelle spending time with my friend Jim and photographing some of Carrabelle’s beauty. I hope to return later this spring.
If you enjoyed this article and the images of the New River, you may enjoy reading the article I posted after my visit to Carrabelle in December 2011. You can read it at: https://stevetaboneblog.com/2011/12/18/carrabelle-in-the-panhandle-of-florida/
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