Residential turf, fertilizer and herbicide workshop Feb. 4

masterlogoThe Walton County Master Gardeners continue the “How Does Your Garden Grow?” lecture series on Wednesday, February 4, 2015 from 10 – 11:30 a.m.  The subject this month will be saving time, money, and Mother Earth.  This program will be given by Len Ross, certified master gardener and licensed commercial fertilizer applicator, and Eddie Powell, UF/IFAS Walton County Extension horticulture agent.

They will cover using residential turf and ornamental fertilizers and herbicides.  Learn how to safely use these products to stimulate turf growth and to control broadleaf and grass type weeds without overdoing it. Do you know the best way to control pre and post emergent weeds in your flower beds?  Find out from experts – don’t guess.

These lectures are designed for local home gardeners. Light refreshments will be served and Master Gardeners will be on hand to take gardening questions. Soil testing supplies and instruction will be available for $8.

This program will be held at the Padgett Park Community Room again this month.  The location is 810 JD Miller Road; north off US-98 just west of the intersection with US-331 in Santa Rosa Beach.  The lecture is free and open to the public, however, seating is limited and reservations are required.  Call Cheryl at 850-892-8172 to reserve your place by Monday, February 2, 2015.

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Walton county fishing report for Jan. 20

specktrout23Fishing is good

Choctawhatchee Bay area: Trout bite on with a few big ones being reeled in. Good redfish bite as well.

River is falling.

Click here for fishing forecast

Bay and river report brought to you by Copeland’s. “Where the locals shop and the tourists are welcome.”

Click here to find out more about Copeland’s.
Copeland’s Gun and Tackle Shop
17290 U.S. Hwy. 331 S
Freeport, Florida 32439

(850) 835-4277
Store hours:
Mon. – Fri.: 6 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Sat.: 6 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sun.: Closed

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Astronomy for kids at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center Feb. 7

starsDate/time: Saturday, Feb. 7 – 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Go out of this world with the E.O.Wilson Biophilia Center and connect with the wonders of astronomy. Explore the galaxy without blasting into space in an inflatable planetarium. Learn all about constellations and the mythology behind them, make moon craters, play in moon sand, create a take home sun dial, gain observation tips from the experts of the Northwest Florida Astronomy Association. Three planetarium shows every hour (check in for times at front desk).  Activities and crafts available until supplies last.

General admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children. Children two and under Free. Please visit to learn more about this non-profit educational center or call 835-1824.
E.O.Wilson Biophilia Center
4956 State Hwy 20 East
Freeport, Florida 32439​

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Learn about alligators at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park Jan. 24

 Date/time: Saturday January 24, 2-3 p.m.

These formidable creatures were once hunted to near extinction, but have made an incredible recovery. Come learn the full history of Florida’s most famous reptile at this informative slideshow presentation. Enter the park through the main gate and the staff will direct you to the park’s clubhouse, entry fee is $6.00.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is located at 7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459. For more information, call (850) 267-8330. ::MAP::

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Florida Forest Service giving away 400 trees in DeFuniak Springs Jan. 23

redmapleThe best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is on Arbor Day with the Florida Forest Service.

It has been over 140 years since J. Sterling Morton founded Arbor Day after moving to Nebraska from Michigan. His simple idea of setting aside a special day for tree planting is now more important than ever.

Arbor Day is recognized nationally on the last Friday in April, but many states observe it on different dates according to their best tree-planting times. In 1886, the first Arbor Day celebration in Florida was held in DeFuniak Springs. The ideal tree planting time in Florida is January, so Florida’s Arbor Day is celebrated on the third Friday of the month.

To commemorate this day, the Florida Forest Service, in conjunction with the annual Chautauqua Assembly at Camp Conservation, will be giving away trees in one-gallon containers to the public on Friday, January 23rd from 7:00 am – 4:00 pm in DeFuniak Springs, the birthplace of Florida’s Arbor Day.

Several species will be offered, including sawtooth oak, red maple, white oak, chickasaw plum and pignut hickory. Along with the tree giveaway, several foresters will be on hand to offer advice such as planting and care for your trees through the weekend as part of Camp Conservation.

“Trees planted on Arbor Day show a concern for future generations,” said Rick Bray, Walton County Senior Forester. “The simple act of planting a tree represents a belief that the tree will someday provide wildlife habitat, shelter from wind and sun, beauty and inspiration for generations to come.”

For more information on Arbor Day Events in Walton County, contact Rick Bray at (850) 892-8010 or by email at

The Florida Forest Service manages more than 1 million acres of public forest land, while protecting 26 million acres of homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire. For more information about the Florida Forest Service, visit or call Hannah Anderson at (850) 625-6621.

Information courtesy WZEP.

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Learn about WWII history and more in a guided tour of Coffeen Nature Preserve

JB2 on launch track. Photo courtesy Coffeen Nature Preserve.

JB2 on launch track. Photo courtesy Coffeen Nature Preserve.

Spring tours offered January through May

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA), in partnership with Northwest Florida State College, announces the spring season of its popular eco-tourism initiative, Eco Adventures of Walton County.

Dates: Jan. 31, Feb. 11, Feb. 28, Mar. 11, March 28 (must register by 3/20), April 8, April 25, May 6, May 16

Time: 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Explore the Coffeen Nature Preserve and its history of World War II missile testing.  The 220-acre Nature Preserve is owned by the Coffeen Land Trust, a local environmental non-profit organization dedicated to preserving it “as a place of peace and quiet and a haven for all God’s creatures.” Its history however is far from quiet. It was used as a secret missile test site by the Army Air Force during World War II. Hundreds of JB-2 “Buzz Bombs,” (the first pilotless, jet propelled missiles), were launched from the dunes into the Gulf of Mexico.

coffeenJoin Susan Paladini, resident manager, and explore the site where America’s strategic missile program began. You will view the original military photographs inside the “mess hall” and learn about the generous gift of the founder, the late Dorothy Coffeen.

This will be followed by a hike of approximately 1½ miles around the property, which will include walking along two original missile launch ramps, stepping down into concrete launch bunkers and viewing other military buildings. Enjoy the natural beauty of the Preserve and Fuller Lake. This is the most western of Walton County’s globally rare and imperiled coastal dune lakes.

Participants are encouraged to wear a hat, sunscreen and insect repellant and to bring bottled water. Closed-toed or other suitable walking shoes are a must.

Space is limited to 16 participants. Minimum of 2 required.

Location: Coffeen Nature Preserve, Santa Rosa Beach. Fee: $20

Discover Roads Less Traveled offers visitors and local residents extraordinary opportunities to explore, discover, and learn about the pristine natural resources that make Walton County unique. Descriptions of the tours being offered are available online at by clicking the Eco Tours information box. Registration is available by phone at 850-200-4160.

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The legend of Euchee Indian Chief Sam Story

Fishing hole along Bruce Creek. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Fishing hole along Bruce Creek. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Could it be an Euchee (Yuchi) Indian chief named Sam Story was the earliest known conservationist in Walton county? Our history books tell us so, however some traditions handed down may be simply legends, and solidified as truth when shared through generations. So with that said, here is one story, through a collection of information, about a man named Sam Story.

Area of Bruce Creek where Sam Story lived.

Area of Bruce Creek where Sam Story lived.

Historic documentation shows many of the earliest white settlers in Walton County were Scottish families from North and South Carolina. One of the first families it is said, the McLennan clan, came to settle in Walton in the early 1800s.

After reading about the natural beauty of Florida, Neil McLennan first brought his family to the Escambia, Blackwater river area not far from Pensacola. The family relocated from North Carolina looking for fertile land, clean air, and a place with hog and sheep ranges. However, the area was not exactly what McLennan wanted, and he went searching for something more. On a trip to Pensacola, he heard of a great trader; an Euchee Indian Chief named Sam Story, also known as Timpoochee Kinard.

Story was living with his tribe in an area east along the Choctawhatchee River, and would often come to Pensacola by boat to trade with merchants. McLennan heard that Story was ethical, a successful hunter, trader, and friendly towards the white man. He also heard that Story lived in the land of plenty.

McLennan made arrangements to meet the Chief. When the two met, they quickly became good friends. Chief Story spoke fondly of his great hunting ground, and welcomed McLennan to join him. The Chief said to McLennan “come and see,” and told him the best way for him to come was by an Indian trail leading from the northwest toward the southeast, and if he would follow that trail it would lead him to his headquarters on the south bank of Bruce Creek. This place along the creek became known as the “Old Place,” and became the first settled place in the Walton County.

When McLennan arrived, he was gladly welcomed and royally received by the Chief and his tribe. McLennan was served strong black coffee, fresh Indian cornbread, fresh game and jerked venison hams. Legend states that when McLennan arrived, Story handed him his tomahawk and said he could have as much land as he could carve out in one day. McLennan, went back to Pensacola and retrieved his family, and returned to settle along the beautiful Choctawhatchee River.

Wildflowers growing along Bruce Creek. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Wildflowers growing along Bruce Creek. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

McLennan built his homestead not far from the Chief’s headquarters. Soon, several Scottish families were invited to come settle in the area. The fertile land near Bruce Creek spread westward into an area known now as Eucheeana Valley.

Chief Story taught safe burning practices to the settlers, educating how controlled burns brought better fruit bearing trees and shrubs. He also taught them sustainable hunting practices so the deer and hog could also thrive, and educated the new settlers on how to grow corn.

For several years, the Scottish settlers and the Euchee tribe thrived side by side. Then, uninvited settlers started to arrive. These new settlers had no regard for the sustainable practices, and no respect for the indigenous people. Random out of control burning, killing of deer for sport, and random killing of non-game birds for amusement became commonplace. This new behavior distraught the Chief, his tribe, as well as many of the original Scots.

The old chief said “he did not want to live among a people that had to be made to look out for themselves and others, that knew nothing but waste, and cared nothing for the days ahead.”

Fed up, the Chief decided to explore land to the east and south. He left his tribe, put his son, Jim Crow in charge, then went south with four of his sons and five of his tribe’s men. He had hoped to find a new home for himself and his tribe- a place where they might live in peace and plenty. They went as far as the Everglades and over to the Atlantic coast. After six months, the tired Chief returned. He could not find another place as beautiful as along the Choctawhatchee River.

Tombstone of Sam Story near the Choctawhatchee River. Photo courtesy Muskogee Nation of Florida

Tombstone of Sam Story near the Choctawhatchee River. Photo courtesy Muskogee Nation of Florida

Exhausted and ill, Chief Sam Story was near death. However, before he died, he made a request to his white friends that he be buried in a deep grave like them.

“I want to be buried in a coffin deep down in the ground after the manner of your burying. I want my bow unstrung and arrow and tomahawk placed by my side.”

Then, turning his eyes towards his faithful squaw and children he said, “I am passing through the swollen river to join those that have passed over to a better hunting ground. Good-bye.”

And then he closed his benignant eyes in peace.

Some history states the tribe headed back down south and merged with the Seminole tribe. No one knows for sure.

Near the end of the 19th century, the State of Florida decided to have an Indian representative from Dade County to represent the Seminoles in Tallahassee. Although the Indians didn’t get a chance to have a voting member, they still sent a representative. This delegate claimed to be the grandson of Sam Story, and the son of Sleeping Fire, who was Sam’s youngest son.

Is the story about Sam Story a fable? No one knows for sure. Story’s relationship with the early Scottish settlers is mentioned several times in Walton’s history books. There are no photos or illustrations of the Chief, only a tombstone on private land near the river which reads “Sam Story, Cheif of the Euchees 1832.”

The Muscogee Nation of Florida in Bruce acknowledges Sam Story. They had been tending his burial site for years until the current landowners fenced it in.

We know one thing to be true, Sam Story was legendary.

Interested in exploring the Bruce Creek area? Head up to State Road 20 and go east to State Road 81. Head north past Red Bay Grocery and look for Louie Miller Road. Turn right on Louie Miller Road and follow the signs to Bruce Creek Landing. Learn more by clicking here.

History of Walton County by John L. McKinnon, 1911
The Heritage of Walton County by Heritage Publishing Consultants, Inc. and The Walton County Heritage Book Committee
Muscogee Nation of Florida
Baker Block Museum, Baker, Florida

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Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance offering spring eco adventures

Outfall at Morris Lake. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA), and Northwest Florida State College, announces the spring season of its popular eco-tourism initiative, Eco Adventures of Walton County. Discover Roads Less Traveled offers visitors and local residents extraordinary opportunities to explore, discover, and learn about the pristine natural resources that make Walton County unique.

Eco-tours are led by local experts who have created a hobby or profession in environmental education. Participants of the Eco-Adventures will gain a better understanding of the different environments in their back yard. The Florida Panhandle, one of the top vacation destinations on Earth, is also known for its vast array of ecosystems. Walton County, rich in biodiversity, is home to a variety of these unusual fauna and flora. Participants can experience these unique environments as they walk the Native Plant Demonstration Garden, or travel to a series of the rare coastal dune lakes.

Historical Tour Coffeen Nature Preserve – $20 – 1/31, 2/11, 2/28, 3/11, 3/28, 4/8, 4/25, 5/6, 5/16
Tour of the Choctawhatchee River and Morrison Springs – $35 – 4/18
Morrison Springs Explore and Paddle – $70 – 5/16
Getting to Know the Natives – Garden & Trail Tour – $15 – 3/3, 3/18, 4/8, 4/22, 5/6, 5/20
Surf Fishing at Grayton Beach State Park – $15 – 4/22
Wet Prairies of Grayton Beach State Park – $15 +$5 park fee – 3/3, 4/22
Wet Prairies and Rare Plants of Point Washington – $15 + $2 park fee – 5/4
Western Lake Paddle Tour – $60/$45 – 2/10, 2/26, 3/10, 3/31, 4/14, 4/28, 5/7, 5/19
Red Bar Lunch Paddle Tour – $70 – 2/18, 3/19, 4/23, 5/13

cbalogoDescriptions of the tours being offered are available online at by clicking the Eco Tours information box. Registration is available by phone at 850-200-4160.

The Eco-Adventure schedule was tailored to the seasonal activities of the spring months in Florida. Hike the wet prairies of local state parks; paddle coastal dune lakes; experience Morrison springs as well as historical tours.

For more information about Discover Roads Less Traveled, please contact Brandy Foley at 870-200-4163/

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Florida Chautauqua Assembly comes to DeFuniak Springs Jan. 22 – 26

The 2015 Florida Chautauqua Assembly will be held in DeFuniak Springs Jan. 22 – 26, 2015. The 4-day educational programs theme this year is “A Journey into the World of Transportation:  From the River to the Rocket.”  The event is comprised of many educational sessions, exhibits and a featured keynote presentation by Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise.

Apollo 13 Astronaut Fred Haise is Chatauqua Assembly's keynote speaker.

Apollo 13 Astronaut Fred Haise is Chatauqua Assembly’s keynote speaker.

All sessions and events will relate to the history of transportation. Passports (money saving book of tickets) are $150 each and include lunches, dinners and all sessions/events.  For those who wish to take a day off from traditional sessions, an excursion to the National Navy Aviation Museum in Pensacola is planned.

Below is a tentative schedule of sessions Click here to register. Call  (850) 892-7613 or email the president at for more information.

10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.:  Registration/check in at Lakeside Building, 1290 Circle Drive, DeFuniak Springs, FL 32435.
11:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.:  TOURS OF THE ORIGINAL FLORIDA CHAUTAUQUA CAMPUS – Begin with a tour of our Historic District as it relates to the original Florida Chautauqua Assembly.  Take a ride with us and learn about how the Assembly began in the 1880s and about the famous people who spoke here, like Vice President Thomas Marshall.  You’ll be awed by the Victorian homes built during the original assembly, and you’ll understand what the original campus looked like and how our community has been so influenced by this historic event.  Lakeside Building, 1290 Circle Drive.  (Tickets $5).
5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.:  WELCOME PARTY!  – Join our faculty, board of directors, volunteers and other Chautauqua guests at the annual Welcome Party.  This year’s gathering will be at the Community Center where we will visit the many displays relating to this year’s assembly.  Then, sit down and enjoy the movie “Apollo 13!”  Soft drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres will be served to compliment your evening of networking and fellowship.  Community Center.  (Tickets $15)

Free exhibits along the Lakeyard include Muscogee Indian Camp, Forestry exhibit, Civil War Camp, and Plein Air Paint-Out and Art Sale.

Free exhibits along the Lakeyard include Muscogee Indian Camp, Forestry exhibit, Civil War Camp, and Plein Air Paint-Out and Art Sale.

FRIDAY, January 23, 2015
7:00 a.m. – 7:45 a.m.:  BREAKFAST SESSION: TBA  – Best Western Crossroads Inn
8:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.:  FREE EXHIBITS
•    Civil War Camp – Lake Yard
•    Florida Frontiersmen Settlement Camp – Lake Yard
•    Tin Can Campers Antique RV and Camper Show – Lake Yard
•    Muscogee Indian Camp – Lake Yard
•    Florida Forest Service – Lake Yard
•    Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge – Lake Yard
•    Studebaker Corral – Lake Yard
•    Chautauqua Cruisers Antique Car Show – Methodist Church Parking Lot
•    Florida Chautauqua History Exhibit – Lakeside Building, 1290 Circle Drive
•    Plein Air Paint-Out & Art Sale – Lake Yard
•    Student Museum Exhibit on the History of Travel – Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood, 2nd Floor
•    Walton County Heritage Museum (Train Depot) – Circle Drive
•    Historic Walton-DeFuniak Springs Library – Circle Drive
•    Porcelain Art Show – Community Center
•    Actress Joanna Maddox as Pilot Bessie Coleman
•    Video introduction of Featured Keynote Speaker
9:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.:   FEATURED KEYNOTE PRESENTATION
Apollo 13 Astronaut Fred Haise, Walton High School Auditorium. (Tickets $15)
10:45 a.m. – Noon:  BREAKOUT SESSIONS
•    ”High Flight” – The World’s Most Well-Known and Beloved Words On Flight – In reaching out to comfort a Nation numbed by the loss of the Challenger space shuttle and her crew, President Ronald Reagan borrowed from the poem “High Flight” to describe the astronauts in their last moments as having “slipped the surly bonds of Earth” and “touched the face of God.”  In doing so, he brought the attention of the public at large to words that had long been well known to almost every English-speaking pilot.  This presentation will examine the lesser known elements of the poem:  the life of the nineteen-year old pilot who composed “High Flight,” inspiration for its words, and the poem’s legacy in film, television, music, and — through President Reagan’s speech — American history.  – Todi Carnes (Tickets $8). Continue reading

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Learn how to surf fish at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park Jan. 17

surffishingDate/time: Saturday January 17, 1 – 2 p.m.

Surf fishing is a popular sport along the beaches of Topsail Hill. This program will teach you what types of bait will work, what times of year certain fish can be caught, and common fish you can catch from the beach. Enter the park through the main gate and the staff will direct you to the park’s clubhouse, entry fee is $6.00.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is located at 7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459. For more information, call (850) 267-8330. ::MAP::

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