Historical Information

Suwannee County, the thirty-seventh county created in the State of Florida, was formed on December 21, 1858 out of the western portion of Columbia County. Named for the river immortalized by Stephen Foster (who never visited it, but used the name because it sounded betterthan other river names), the word “Suwannee” is sometimes thought to originate from the Indian word for “Echo River,” “Muddy Waters,” or something similar. Another possible origin, and the one this author finds to be the most likely based upon old maps, is a corruption of the Spanish name for the river and Spanish mission near its banks, “Rio San Juan de Guacara,” which translates into the “River of Saint John of Antiquity,” referring to John the Apostle. It is possible, of course, that the Spanish purposely named the river and mission “San Juan de Guacara” based upon their hearing of the pronunciation of the Indian word for the river. If it is indeed true that “Suwannee” is a corruption of “San Juan de Guacara,” it would mean that two of North Florida’s principal rivers are named after the same apostle. Either way, by the late 1700s, most maps showed the river’s name as simply “San Juan.” Apparently, Creek Indians moving from Alabama in the late 1700s as white settlers forced them off their ancestral property intermarried with runaway slaves and the few Timucua Indians that may haveremained. Their descendants became the Seminole people and began calling the river San Juanee after a corruption of the nearby Spanishmission. From then on, there were a number of variations in the old maps, including “Seguano River” and “Suquana River.” After the Englishmoved into the area in the early 1800s, the river went through several spelling variations, including “Sawaney River,” “Suwaney River,”“Suwanney River,” and “Suwanee River,” before the maps standardized on “Suwannee.” In fact, the part of the Suwannee River upstream of the Withlacoochee River was named such differing variations as “Little St. John’s River,” “New River,” “Little Suwanee River,” “Little Suwannee River,” “Suanee River,” and “Sawanee River” before becoming part of the Suwannee River. Additionally, several maps in the 1820s and 1830s show the Withlacoochee River as part of the Suwannee River.
Suwannee County is full of natural wonders. The Suwannee River is one of eight magnificent waterways in North Central Florida. It proudlyboasts to be the “diving capital of the world;” over 70 clear, fresh springs stand in stark contrast to the tannin-colored river water. There are many types of fish that thrive in its waters, including sturgeon, and the river provides a habitat for many species of wildlife. The river originates in the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia, meanders some 240 miles through North Central Florida, and empties into the Gulf of Mexico on Florida’s western shore.



Contact Information

Suwannee County, Florida
13150 80th Terrace
Live Oak, FL 32060

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