Experience the colorful history of old Florida. This is a unique and authentic landscape that has inspired naturalists, writers and painters for centuries, with notable persons visiting and living in the area to work. The Old Florida Heritage Highway offers access to Florida’s historical resources and related natural, scenic, recreational and cultural heritage.
Before the Spaniards arrived, the area’s unique combination of fertile soil, broad prairies, clear lakes and abundant game spawned a complex Native American civilization. Place names, such as, Wacahoota, Tuscawilla, and Micanopy suggest the region’s rich Native American tradition. Throughout the 16th century the Spanish explored and established the region’s first horse and cattle ranches. The corridor is located within the large historic Arredondo Spanish Land Grant. The 21 mile by 21 mile land area was given in a series of grants to the Arredondo family for service to the Spanish crown around 1817. Spain had a difficult time controlling the Florida territory and ceded it to the United States in 1821.
The second Seminole War slowed the area’s development, but the Florida Railroad opened up the interior for settlement and trading. The area entered the twentieth century with an economy centered on citrus, phosphate, cotton and vegetable industries. The area along Scenic US 441 and spur roads offer a plethora of historic landmarks. Scenic US 441 represents one of the more well-preserved sections of Florida’s pre-interstate highway system, with vestiges of stately palm-lined medians remaining along some sections of the road. Paynes Prairie State Preserve provides a glimpse of the way Florida appeared to early inhabitants, including bison and wild horses, and has been designated a National Natural Landmark. America’s first naturalist William Bartram visited the area and described its colorful vistas and natural beauty in 1774.
Florida has wonderful sunshine and enjoyable weather year round, and colorful wildflowers are most enjoyed in spring and fall. Byway visitors will not encounter crowds or extra traffic except for the enjoyable Micanopy Fall Festival held the first week of November each year.