Area along the Choctawhatchee River boasts long history of outdoor recreation, logging
Former Walton County resident DeWayne Ray has fond memories of fishing and hunting around the Red Bay area of Walton County.
According to Ray, his ancestors the Chamberlains, Tiners and McDonalds spent time fishing and hunting at Lost Lake (now named Lost Lake at Tilley Landing) as far back as the 1830s. The family owned property where the old road began to the lake from Red Bay.
“My grandfather use to maintain the old logging road which crossed much of their property and lead to the Lost Lake. My ancestors fished, trapped and hunted this area since the 1830s,” said Ray.
“The landing area still appears has it did more than 50 years ago. My family and other local native Red Bay families fished the lakes on a regular basis, especially my grandmother and great aunt.”
Ray generously shared with Walton Outdoors photos taken in 1961 and 1962. The photos depict his family enjoying fishing and hunting along Lost Lake near the Choctawhatchee River.
“The small boys are me and my brother with my mother (Joan Stiller Ray), father (Walter Ray) and my grandparents (Nellie Chamberlain Stiller and Wayland Stiller).
Walton Outdoors asked Ray about the old cypress trees in the area touting square cutouts. Ray contacted his father and this is his historical response:
“I spoke to my Dad, Walter Ray. The cuts in the cypress are likely either loggers were starting to ‘deaden the tree’ and immediately notice the trees were hollow and stopped the process. Only solid cypress were deadened, then harvested. Since “green” solid cypress would not float, the loggers would first “deaden” the tree by cutting a notch around the bottom of the tree, which would kill it over time, making the tree able to be floated out of the swamp to the main river for transport.
There is another reason cuts were made in the cypress, so loggers could insert boards to stand on while they cross-cut the tree down. Likely they noticed during this process the tree was hollow and stopped and moved on to solid cypress.
My Grandfather Stiller was born in a logging company train box car in 1906 and logged the Walton County area all of his life. When he was a very young man they still used oxen and cross-cut saws – way before tractors and power saws. As a result, his wrists were massive. You can tell where cross-cut saws were used by stumps being 2 or 3 feet above the grounds surface. There are a couple of these stumps on our property. There is one, now very decayed, in the Northwest Florida Water Water Manage swamp, near our property, that’s approximately 10-12 feet across! My Grandfather said they cut down this massive native pine and could not get it up the “bluff” with the oxen because the longs were just too heavy (circa 1920s). How I have wished that tree would have remained uncut,” Ray responded.
These days, Lost Lake at Tilley Landing is part of the Choctawhatchee River Wildlife Management Area, and is managed in cooperation with Northwest Florida Water Management District and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It is open to fishing, hunting, boating, and primitive camping. It has picnic tables, pavilion, and a portable restroom facility. For information on hunting in the Wildlife Management Area, click here. For more information about Lost Lake, click here.