The Wakulla Volcano Archive


(April 11, 1935)

                            THE WAKULLA VOLCANO
                              By William Wyatt
                          Delivered April 11, 1935
          If a visitor had happened to come to Tallahassee for the first
time some 50 years ago, among the first of his sight seeing tours would
have been a trip to the top of the capitol dome where looking to the
Southeast he would see a mysterious column of smoke rising above the
tree tops.  At first glance he might have thought it to be a conflagra-
tion of some kind, and probably would never have given it another
thought, but his guide would intrigue him with the air of strangeness
and mystery in which the origin of the smoke was surrounded.
          Numerous Indian legends had been handed down from generation
to generation about the "Wakulla Volcano" as the smoke column was called,
but no person seemed able to penetrate the secret of the swamp.
Northern papers and magazines, ever searching for the new and unusual,
sent eager representatives to try to unravel the "Mystery of Wakulla",
but without success.
          The column of smoke was seen at intervals from Indian days
until the time of the Charleston earthquake of the 80's which was felt
in this section to a considerable extent.
          During the dry season of 1932-33, I was able to go far enough
into the swamp, which in reality is in Jefferson County, to find evi-
dence of some of the queer works of nature that had gone on there.
          Before starting out to see for myself, I collected all the
available first-hand information that I could from various old timers
in Chaires, Capitola, and Wacissa, all of whom had seen the smoke at
some time or other and one of whom had seen the glow of fire by night.
          Using a negro, who know the swamp section, as guide we were
able to make our way quite a distance into the tangled thickets where
finally we found a number of sinks with piles of rock close by that
seemed to have been blown out of them, the rocks being different to
the kind usually found on the surface, for the edges were rounded off
as though they had been subjected to great heat at some time or other.
There were mounds or piles of rock as high as 15 feet that looked as
though they had been blown or pushed out of the earth by some gigantic
hand, with small rocks close by,  that again looked as though they had
been melted.
          One man from Capitola tells of a warm spring that he found
near this section, although the U. S. Geological Department says that
warm springs are found mostly in oil producing regions and also states
that oil is not found east of the Apalachicola River.
          The "circumstantial evidence" as seen by myself and as
related by various gentlemen familiar with this region, would seem at
first glance to be a very convincing argument in trying to prove the
existence of a Florida Volcano.  However, as is often the case, all
of this so-called eye evidence can be explained scientifically by
anyone familiar with teh geological structure of this section of
Florida, to disprove the existence of such a volcano.
          The earth in the swamp section of Jefferson County is composed
largely of residual flint rock of the Miocene age.  At one time the
elevation of the land was some ten to twenty feet above the present
level, and with the successive inundations of the ocean the softer rocks
were washed away leaving the rocks of the harder formations at the for-
mer height.
          There is no scientific evidence of a volcano as the rocks,
although seeming to have been subjected to heat, are not of volcanic
          Rejecting then, the volcanic theory, permit me to submit
another.  Everyone is familiar with the odd tricks that nature plays
with the part of the earth that is of limestone formation of which
Natural Bridge is a notable example.  Therefore, one can easily explain
the large cavities and sinks that are so numerous in the swamp section.
          A great deal of the swamp consists of peat and muck lands
that are the early stages of coal formation, all of which have their
origin in some pre-historic forest that was covered by water.  Advancing
with my theory, after explaining the existance of the cavities and sinks
and supposing that they continue under ground to an unknown extent,
which is a recognized scientific fact, the next step to the explanation
of the fire and smoke is the filling in of these depressions by trees
decaying and debris of all kinds collecting, being carried into the
farthest parts of the caverns by the waters of the various inundations.
Then at some later date, after the floods have subsided for the last
time, something happens to set this vast underground storehouse of
combustible material afire, and as in the coal fields of Pennsylvania,
the fire continues eating away at the vitals of the earth until it
breaks through the surface at some weak point, the underground fire
feeding the visible smoke column for decades, until perhaps once more,
as in the Charleston earthquake, Nature tired of the old, causes a
shift of the earth smothering the fire or shifting it to a still lower
level, while man searches for the mysterious smoke that is no more.

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