The Econfina River is a small coastal river that flows 35 miles from it’s headwaters in Madison And Taylor counties to the Apalachee Bay in the Gulf Of Mexico where it forms an estuarine march at the Western extent of Florida’s Big Bend coastline. It has a watershed of 239 square miles (619 square kilometers). Other freshwater river inputs to the estuary include the Ochlocknee, Sopchoppy, Wakulla, Wacissa, Aucilla, and Fenholloway Rivers.
Like the Aucilla, The Econfina is an unspoiled Blackwater river. Decomposing leaves and swamp vegetation release tannin, which give the water its coffee-colored tint.
If you paddle upriver, you’ll glide beneath canopies of cypress, gum, cedar and huge arching live oaks. In the warmer months, scan the shoreline for tall white flowers of duck potato, iridescent swamp lilies, purple spires of pickerel weed and striking red cardinal flowers. You might also spot otters, wading birds, alligators and white-tailed deer.
The Econfina river figured heavily in the Seminole Indian wars. In April 1818, seeking to capture escaped slaves and to punish Seminoles for raids into Georgia, General Andrew Jackson marched through the region with more than three thousand militia and Creek Indian allies. He skirmished with chief Peter McQueen’s band of two hundred warriors along the Econfina River, Killing thirty seven, and then marched to confront the large Seminole villages along the lower Suwannee River. Jackson’s raids later became known as the First Seminole War.
After Jackson left, Creeks and Seminoles reclaimed their Big Bend coastal homes and vigorously fought to remain during the Second Seminole War of the late 1830’s and 1840’s. A fort was built on the Econfina River, along with forts on the Fenholloway and Steinhatchee rivers, as part of the United States war effort. Most of the Seminoles were killed, relocated west, driven south into the Everglades or dispersed into the backwoods; then, white settlers moved into the region.