Discover Florida’s unique places across time through writings from history
“Read Tracing Florida Journeys outdoors steeped in natural light and birdsong, privy to chatter and scurries secreted in green growing things. Like your surroundings, and the nature travelers Leslie Poole writes about, the book awakens a sense of wonder. The true provenance of that wonder is natural Florida, elements of which we can appreciate today, as you will appreciate this book.”—Jack E. Davis, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea
“Transporting. Poole’s smart, sumptuous essays on Florida travelers and the landscapes they traversed shed new light on some of the state’s most essential people, places, and times. Chug up the Ocklawaha River with Harriet Beecher Stowe, listen to African American folk tales with Zora Neale Hurston, walk in the unvarnished bootsteps of Juan Ponce de León and Hernando de Soto. Poole’s revelations on Florida history, blended with her own beautiful travel writing, make Tracing Florida Journeys her best book yet.”—Cynthia Barnett, author of The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans
“From Hernando de Soto to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Poole brilliantly weaves together stories of epic travel through the Florida wilderness over five centuries, but she makes it ever so relevant today by retracing those journeys to discover the wilderness that still remains. Tracing Florida Journeys contributes greatly to our sense of place in a state of dynamic change.”—Clay Henderson, author of Forces of Nature: A History of Florida Land Conservation
“Travel through history and geography with several well-known figures and learn how they were affected by their Florida travels and the legacy their accounts had on others.”—James Zacharias, senior curator of history, Museum of Arts & Sciences, Daytona Beach
How has Florida’s land changed across five centuries? What has stayed the same, and what remains only in memory? In Tracing Florida Journeys, Leslie Poole delves into the stories of well-known explorers and travelers who came to the peninsula and wrote about their experiences, looking at their words and the paths they took from the perspective of today.
In these pages, John Muir and Harriet Beecher Stowe write about their visits to Florida, reflecting their expectations of a place that was touted to be “paradise.” John James Audubon finds riches of bird life in the Keys. Zora Neale Hurston travels to turpentine camps and sawmills documenting the stories and music of workers and residents. Jonathan Dickinson and Stephen Crane recount shipwrecks along a sparsely populated coastline. Members of Hernando de Soto’s violent 1539 expedition of conquest describe their struggles with dense swamps, forests, and rivers, and resistance from the Native people they exploited.
Using journals and articles by these and other authors that date back to the early European exploration of the region, Poole retraces their steps. The land they write about is often hard to imagine in today’s Florida, a top destination for tourists filled with almost 22 million residents. These stories show the evolving history of the state and the richness of its natural resources. Poole’s comparisons also point to the people who have been displaced and the ecosystems that have been dramatically altered by exploration and development. Highlighting the Florida that was and the Florida that exists now, Poole brings together historical research, interviews with experts, and her personal experiences to tell a revealing story of the state’s natural history.
Leslie Kemp Poole, a fourth-generation Floridian, is associate professor of environmental studies at Rollins College. She is the author of Saving Florida: Women’s Fight for the Environment in the Twentieth Century and coeditor of The Wilder Heart of Florida: More Writers Inspired by Florida Nature.
Funding for this publication was provided through a grant from Florida Humanities with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent those of Florida Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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