Thursday, November 17, 2011

O'Leno State Park - High Springs, Florida

Historical Marker at O'Leno State Park
O'Leno State Park is located along the Santa Fe River near High Springs and is a great place to explore the remains of a Civil War era Florida ghost town.
The Town of Leno, originally called Keno, was established just above the "sink" and natural bridge of the Santa Fe during the 1840s. Stone dams in the river powered two mills and eventually up to six cotton gins. This source of power gave the little town its existence and helped survive through the years of the Civil War.

Old Mill Dam at O'Leno State Park
Keno, as gamblers know, is a bingo-like lottery game. It was under this name that the community was known during the Civil War years, but the name was changed a decade or so later after the postal service refused to approve a post office for a town with a name associated with gambling!  The name was subsequently changed to Leno. After the village was bypassed by the railroad and faded away, it became known as Old Leno. The name was eventually contracted to O'Leno, the name of today's state park.

Suspensioin Bridge at O'Leno State Park
The park offers an excellent open air pavilion with artifacts from and displays about Keno (or Leno). There are grindstones from the old mills, photographs and informational panels. The picnic area with its unique C.C.C. built structures is now located on the town site.

The Santa Fe River also ripples over the remains of the two stone mill dams.

In addition, O'Leno State Park is a place of extraordinary beauty and is known for its beloved swinging or suspension bridge. Built by the C.C.C. during the Great Depression to carry hikers across the river, the old bridge is still in excellent condition.

To learn more about O'Leno State Park and its history and unqiue geology, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/oleno.

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