My wife has been hiking Croom Tract of Withlacoochee State Forest for a very long time. She knows many of the out of the way places that most people don’t go. She likes to take her morning runs with the dogs deep in the forest where she won’t be bothered by people. Fifteen years ago she was running through the old mining pits and found a structure that she thought was interesting. She took me back a few months later. The problem was the few months in between consisted of torrential rains that flooded the mine covering the structure she found under water.
We make trips there on occasion and keep an eye on water levels. The droughts from fifteen years ago have not returned and the water levels have never receded enough to see much more of the structure… until now.
Christa and I took fellow adventurer Joe Dunn and his wife Sunny back to see the location and it just happened the water levels exposed more of the structure. The remains were exposed enough that we think we have figured out what that structure is.
It has always been an enigma. Why would a structure be built sixty feet or more below the ground level in the bottom of a mine? If it floods now it surely flooded one hundred years ago. The answer came when Joe researched some of the phosphate mining practices. The phosphate mines took advantage of the flooding and used drag lines and dredges mounted on barges. The structure has every indication that it is in fact a dredge barge. We intend to do some more investigation before the summer rains come and it disappears again.
The following four pictures Christa took years ago when the mine pit was dry.
This black and white photo is an archive photo of the Buttgenbach mine which is now the Croom Motorcycle Park. It shows a dredge on a barge which shows that this type of equipment was operated in the area. This site is only a few miles south of where Christa found the structure in the other photos.