A Rich History and a Rare Ecology
Exploring Floridas Emerald Coast is a tour guide of the history, people, land, and water of the Northwest Florida gulf coast. From Fort Walton Beach and Destin to Pensacola on the west and Panama City Beach on the east, award-winning journalist Jean Bouler tells the tales of Native Americans, Spanish explorers, and others who settled this rare and fascinating land.
Thoroughly researched and annotated, the book is a richly academic endeavor and a great resource for anyone looking for historical facts and information. It has an extensive bibliography and is heavily indexed, with 192 pages and 64 black and white photographs, many of them from the Florida State Archives.
Yet, it’s a comfortable read for those just wanting to know more about the region. It even has a “People” magazine quality when Bouler talks about the celebrity visitors the area has had over the years, like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Bob Hope, Hank Williams, and even Al Capone.
Exploring Floridas Emerald Coast starts in Fort Walton Beach with the discovery of ancient peoples inhabiting the area as far back as 14,000 years ago. The archaeological findings of Col. William Lazarus led to the naming of the Fort Walton Culture of pre-Columbian Native Americans. Lazarus and his wife Yulee established the Indian Temple Mound Museum which today houses over 6,000 artifacts.
The book tells of Spanish explorers like Alvar Nunez, whose journal of his disastrous trek through the interior of Northwest Florida was the first such account in the New World, and early settlers such as Leonard Destin who founded the town of Destin, known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.”
Other chapters show how the region was settled and developed, and include the Civil War, Sawmills and Turpentine Stills, and Railroads: Gateway to the Gulf. Bouler brings us into modern times with discussions of how the fishing and tourism industries have had an impact on the culture and the economy. Here too she discusses the rare ecology of the region with its coastal dune lakes and numerous endangered plants, animals, and ecosystems.
Filled with history, trivia, and nature, Exploring Floridas Emerald Coast is a valuable addition to any collection of Northwest Florida gulf coast books. It takes you on a back roads journey through time and space, giving you a chance to stop and smell the pitcher plants along the way.
By Jean Lufkin Bouler
University Press of Florida, 2007, $24.95
This book is available in bookstores and through online book sellers, or click on the link above to order from Amazon.com.