River Steamboat "Okeehumkee" by Landing


The rivers and springs of Florida attracted tourists from the northern states of the United States, and from abroad, after the end of the Civil War. This image, from about 1886, shows the Okeehumkee, one of the Florida steamboats specially designed to navigate narrow, often shallow interior waterways to ferry tourists and merchants to cities and settlements away from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Vermont-born Hubbard L. Hart (1827–95) was an entrepreneur and developer of travel routes in Georgia and Florida who pioneered a line of Florida steamboats, which by the 1880s were bringing thousands of tourists each year to such scenic attractions as Silver Springs in central Florida. The Hart Line Steamers featured covered paddlewheels that prevented debris—which often floated in the dark, canopied rivers—from obstructing the wheels and thus allowed these shorter steamboats to navigate the narrow and winding waterways. The photograph shows the Okeehumkee leaving the landing at Silver Springs, for the run back to the Ocklawaha River and eventually to the St. Johns River and on to Jacksonville. By the 1920s, the steamboats and their landings were almost abandoned in favor of railroads and highways.

Last updated: October 22, 2014