ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Historic Old Bellamy Road, Florida
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Historic Old Bellamy Road, Florida
Old Bellamy Road
A section of the historic Old Bellamy Road can be
followed on foot or horseback at River Rise Preserve
State Park near High Springs, Florida.
Old Bellamy Road
A surviving section of the
historic Old Bellamy Road
approaches River Rise State
Park in Florida.
Interpretive Kiosk
Panels like this one interpret
the history of the Old Bellamy
Road and are spaced along
the interpretive trail.
Old Bellamy Road - River Rise Preserve State Park, Florida
Natural Bridge of the Santa Fe
Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
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River Rise Preserve
The park features thousands
of acres of land and is a great
place to explore nature either
on horseback or foot.
Santa Fe River
The river flows down into a
sink at neighboring O'Leno
State Park and then runs
underground for three miles
to its rise.
A stretch of the historic Old Bellamy Road
can still be traveled at River Rise Preserve
State Park just north of High Springs, Florida.

The park takes its name from the "Rise" of
the Santa Fe River, a place where the
beautiful river rises to the surface again after
flowing underground for three miles. It sinks
below the surface in
O'Leno State Park,
which adjoins the River Rise Preserve.

This natural bridge has provided a way of
crossing the Santa Fe since prehistoric
times. Since it was a place where early
travelers could walk across the river without
getting their feet wet, many of the Indian trails
in this region of Florida funneled down to a
single pathway across the bridge.

When Spanish explorers and missionaries
penetrated Florida during the 1500s and
1600s, they too used the trail across the
natural bridge. It became part of the historic
old Mission road which linked St. Augustine
on the Atlantic Coast with the numerous
Spanish missions that surrounded the
present-day site of Tallahassee.

The road across the natural bridge saw
heavy use throughout the mission period,
which came to a bloody and dramatic end in
1702-1704 when English raiders led allied
Indian warriors into Florida. The missions
were destroyed and thousands of Apalachee,
Timucua and other Indians were killed or
carried away into slavery.

The road fell into disuse until bands of Lower
Creek Indians migrated down into Florida
later that century to form the roots of today's
Seminole nation.

The natural bridge served as a crossing
point for British troops and their Creek allies
during the American Revolution. One such
group crossed the bridge in 1778 en route to
reinforce St. Augustine against rumored
American attack. That expedition resulted in
the Stuart-Purcell Map, which shows the full
length of the original trail from Pensacola to
St. Augustine.

After Florida was ceded to the United States
by Spain, the need for an improved road
connecting the two early cities quickly
became apparent. Congress appropriated
money for the project and placed the work
under the supervision of the U.S. Army.

Captain Daniel Burch, the officer assigned to
direct the project, decided to contract out the
section east of the Apalachicola River, while
the army itself built the stretch west of the

On December 18, 1824, John Bellamy
entered a bid to build the section of the new
road between the St. John's River near St.
Augusting and the Ochlockonee River near
the new territorial capital of Tallahassee. He
could complete the project, he believed, for

The bid was accepted and in early 1825 work
began on laying out, clearing and building
the road. Construction moved forward quickly
and by June Captain Burch was able to
report that Bellamy (who also spelled his
name "Bellame") had made significant
...The contractor for that part of the road from
Ockolockony to St. John's is progressing well
with his work and calculates to be ready to
deliver it over to me by the first of December
next. I have made him a payment of near
$8,000 on his contract.

The road was soon completed, but as one
critic noted the following year, it was not
exactly a smooth ride:

...The stumps of the trees on the road are left
standing to a great height, instead of being
"cut down as low to the ground as
possible."An ordinary rain must make the
road absolutely impassable.

The critic warned that Bellamy's road would
not last twelve months, but he was wrong.
Sections of it remain in use today.

The Federal road, in particular the part in
West Florida, was not a success. In order to
save money, the U.S. Army teams that
surveyed the road routed through open lands
away from existing settlements. This reduced
its value to early settlers and much of the
trace soon fell into disuse.

The section of road built by John Bellamy,
however, ran through better lands and was of
more value to early Floridians. As a result it
remained in use long after other parts of the
road were abandoned. Because it had been
built by Bellamy, section in East Florida
became known first as "Colonel Bellamy's
Road" and eventually as the "Bellamy Road."

At River Rise Preserve State Park just north
of High Springs, visitors still drive a section of
the original road as they make their way to
the Bellamy Road Interpretive Trail. Open
daily, the trail follows the trace of the old road
and includes panels detailing its history.

To reach the trail, travel from High Springs on
U.S 41/U.S. 441 North for 5.6 miles then turn
right on Old Bellamy Road SE.  Follow it to
the end and the trail parking area will be on
your left.