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Primitive Eocene Whales
© Florida Geological Society

55 to 38 million years ago

The Eocene Epoch
What is now the St. Johns River valley, indeed all of Florida, was beneath a shallow sea. Florida's limestone substrate contains many vertebrate and invertebrate fossils as well as fossils of sharks, sea cows, whales, and porpoises that swam the Eocene seas.

Mesoreodon of the Late Oligocene Epoch of Florida
© MacFadden & Morgan, Florida Museum of Natural History

25 or 30 million years ago

The Oligocene Epoch
Areas in north and central Florida, including the St. Johns River area, emerged above sea level for the first time. Terrestrial animals migrated from points north and west to occupy the newly formed dry lands.

© Bellarmine University

24 to 5 million years ago

The Miocene Epoch By the end of the Miocene Epoch the current outlines of North America were nearly defined and larger areas of Florida became hospitable as terrestrial habitat. Fossilized remains of mastodons, horses, camels, rhinos, as well as turtles, snakes, and the oldest known alligator species attest to the diversity of species during this period.

Saber-toothed cat
© California State Univ.

2 million to 12,000 years ago

The Pleistocene Epoch
Fluctuations in the climate produced multiple ice ages, causing sea levels to rise and fall with cyclical melting and formation of ice. As the sea level dropped, water trapped behind a long barrier island formed brackish lagoons that began flowing north, forming the St. Johns River. Toward the end of the period saber-toothed cats shared the region with Paleoindians who hunted animals such as the mastodon and giant sloth.

Simpson type Paleoindian spear point

8000 BC - 1000 BC

The Archaic Period
The three phases of the Archaic Period - Early, Middle and Late - are marked by the development of spear points, arrowheads, tools, camp placement and cultural changes. Native Americans during this period were primarily hunters and gatherers. Shell mound building, pottery and textiles marked the late Archaic Period.

Timucuan alligator hunt, drawn by Jacques Le Moyne, circa 1564

500 BC - 1500 BC

St. Johns Period
Archaeologists named this 2000 year period after the river that sustained the Timucuans, a complex Native American culture that flourished along it's banks. Tens of thousands of natives lived along the river in large villages in which agriculture and trade flourished. Within 200 years after first contact with the Spanish in 1513, the Timucuans had largely disappeared due to disease and persecution brought by the Europeans.

The Water's Journey: The River Returns film
is an original film by Karst Productions, Inc.
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All Photos © 2005 Russell Sparkman/Fusionspark Media, Inc., unless otherwise noted.