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The Monster Lizard of Shangri-La Cave

The mouth of Shangri-La Cave near Marianna, Florida.

One of my favorite old legends about Jackson County is the story of the Monster Lizard of Shangri-La Cave.

Early white settlers learned the story from the Lower Creek Indians who still lived in the county after the transfer of Florida from Spain to the United States in 1821. It tells of a monstrous lizard that guarded Shangri-La Caves at today’s Blue Springs Recreational Area near Marianna.

Econchattimico’s town on the Chattahoochee River as drawn by Francis, comte de Castelnau, in 1838.

The source for the legend was Econchattimico (Red Ground King). He was the leader of Eckanachatte (Red Ground), a Lower Creek village at today’s Neals Landing Park, prior to the First Seminole War. The town was destroyed in 1818, however, and its residents moved down the Chattahoochee River to rebuild.

Their new town, Tocktoethla (River Junction), stood on the river near today’s Arnold Landing north of Sneads. The site is now inundated by Lake Seminole, a 37,500 acre reservoir that forms much of Jackson County’s eastern border.

Shangri-La Spring in Jackson County near Marianna, Florida.

The town’s chief attracted considerable interest and was often visited by those curious about Native American culture and history. One of these preserved his story of the Monster Lizard:

…A hunter of the old days would seek deer at the Big Spring. He camped there many times and the water and the game were good. On this day he went down from the Big Spring to the rocky place and it was there that he heard the sound of the monster lizard. (1)

Looking down into Shangri-La Spring through crystal clear water.

The Big Spring, of course, was today’s Blue Springs (or Jackson Blue Spring as the state prefers to call it). The “rocky place” was the face of the limestone bluff at Shangri-La Spring, which is on the north bank of Merritt’s Mill Pond just downstream from Blue Springs.

The old chief continued his story:

Shangri-La Spring as seen from the limestone bluff. The legendary attack of the Monster Lizard took place here.

…It sounded like a tired dog. The hunter took shelter behind a rock so he could see the cave in which the monster lizard made his home. It slowly came out into the light. It was large. Larger than the largest alligator. Its teeth were like my knife. (2)

The Monster Lizard looked around, searching for the Native American hunter who had dared to disturb its lair. Its tongue flickered in and out:

Deep inside Shangri-La Cave. Econchattimico said that this was the lair of the Lizard Monster.

…The hunter was a brave warrior. Now he shook like dry leaves in the wind. He lay flat on the dirt, hoping he would not be seen. The Monster Lizard found him and picked him up in his mouth to take him back into the cave. The hunter knew he would be eaten but suddenly there was a sound. The Monster Lizard threw him down and went to find what had made the sound. It was a tiger. The hunter did not know what to do so he lay still as if he was dead. (3)

The word “tiger” was often used in historic times to refer to a panther. These beautiful big cats were once common in all parts of Florida:

The mouth of Shangri-La Cave as seen from the interior. The Lizard Monster entered here after being badly injured in its battle with the panther.

…The tiger battled the Monster Lizard. It was a big fight. The Monster Lizard tried to grab the tiger but the tiger slashed him with his claws. The Monster Lizard was badly hurt and finally gave up the fight and went into his cave. The hunter now was afraid that the tiger would eat him. He lay still and pretended to be dead. He then heard words, “Are you dead?” He opened his eyes and saw that the tiger had spoken to him. The hunter said, “no.” The tiger then said to him, “Get on my back then and I will carry you to your camp.” And he did. (4)

The story as told by Econchattimico was a version of an old legend told by the Creeks. There are different variations but all involve a hunter being attacked by a monstrous lizard and then being saved by a panther.

The legend was commonly told around fires in Creek towns and migrated with them to what is now Oklahoma when they were forced west on the Trail of Tears. Versions of it still survive there to this day.

The cave at Shangri-La is not open to the public at this time.

Dale Cox
September 14, 2017


(1)  “A Tale of Conchatimico,” May 21, 1838, Carswell Collection.
(2)  Ibid.
(3)  Ibid.
(4)  Ibid.

Have a “Grape” Labor Day at Fox Hollow Vineyard!

Muscadine grapes waiting to be picked at Fox Hollow Vineyard in Sneads, Florida.

Labor Day brings with it the end of the season at Fox Hollow Vineyard in Sneads, Florida!

The vineyard was founded in 2003 and has grown to become a great success story in local agri-tourism. Owned by Susan and Bruce Paul, Fox Hollow first began producing as a U-pick and commercial vineyard in 2006.

Historian and author Dale Cox (L) shares a laugh as he makes a purchase from Karen and Susan.

The vineyard produces muscadines, a species of grape that is native to Florida and the Southeast. They have been commercially produced since the 1500s when the Spanish first colonized Florida and were growing in vineyard around St. Augustine long before the first Pilgrim landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts.

Fox Hollow Vineyard is open for “U-pick” and “We-pick” purchases from early August through Labor Day weekend of each year.

Fox Hollow Vineyard in Sneads, Florida.

They will be open Saturday, Sunday and Monday of this weekend from 8 a.m. –  8 p.m. (Eastern time). Monday will be the last day for this year!

The cost for U-pick is $5 for a field bucket (around 7 pounds) and $25 for a 5-gallon bucket (around 32 pounds). They also will pick for you and wholesale/bulk purchases are available too.

Click here to visit their website for more information.

The vineyard is located at the intersection of Renegade Pass and Legion Road in Sneads, just one-half mile north of Historic Highway 90.

Enter 8160 Renegade Pass, Sneads, FL into your GPS or use the map below.

Sneads landmarks named to National Register of Historic Places

The Sneads Community Building and nearby Sneads Town Pump have been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The director of the National Park Service announced today that the historic Sneads Town Pump and log Community Building have been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The application that led to the recognition was prepared by Andrew Waber of the Florida Division of Historical Resources with support from Connie Butts, the Sneads City Manager.

The Sneads Town Pump was erected in 1899-1900 by Gabriel Smith and was one of the earliest pumps of its type in the area. It stands on a lot of just over one acre that was sold to the City of Sneads by F.A. and Mittie Brown on February 18, 1899. The sale price of the land was $200.

Legend holds that “He who drinks from this pump will always return.” It was once a tradition in Sneads for local men to take any non-local grooms to the pump for a “drink” to make sure that they always returned to their bride’s hometown.

Another view of the log Community Building in Sneads, Florida. It was built by the WPA in around 1936.

The Sneads Community Building is a charming log cabin structure that is, according to the application, a “locally significant example of New Deal architecture.” It was built in around 1936 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Great Depression effort started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help create jobs for starving American families.

The structure was built using locally cut logs and features a beautiful stone fireplace and chimney. It serves as a community meeting place today and stands immediately behind the old Town Pump.

Both landmarks are located at 8025 Old Spanish Trail, Sneads, FL 32460.

The historic Sneads Town Pump and the adjacent historical marker face the Old Spanish Trail in Sneads, Florida.

The now defunct Jackson County Historic Commission placed a marker adjacent to the pump in 1970. The commission was an ancestor of sorts for today’s Chipola Historical Trust.

The listing of the Sneads Town Pump and Community Building on the National Register of Historic Places will shine a positive new spotlight on the community. Many travelers visit and photograph historic sites using the list as a guide.

The landmarks will soon appear in National Park Service publications and will be listed on the official website as well. You can visit  at National Register of Historic Places.

A coordinated effort to better recognize other local historic sites is now underway in Greenwood, where it is hoped that additional local landmarks will soon be added to the National Register.

Dale Cox
August 4, 2017


Indian mound restoration nears completion in Chattahoochee, Florida

Restoration of the more than 1,000 year old mound is nearing completion.

Restoration of a destroyed prehistoric Indian mound is nearing completion at River Landing Park in Chattahoochee, Florida.

The original mound was built by prehistoric Native Americans more than 1,000 years ago. Unfortunately, it was all but destroyed  when a previous owner of the property used a bulldozer to level it. The site is now owned by the City of Chattahoochee, which has been highly supportive of the effort to restore the earthwork.

A load of earth arrives for use in restoring the mound.

Work on the project began in early June and is expected to be completed by the end of this week if the weather cooperates.

The restoration is a true community project. The idea was conceived by author/historian Dale Cox who has written two books about events that took place at River Landing Park:

Nicolls’ Outpost: A War of 1812 Fort at Chattahoochee, Florida

The Scott Massacre of 1817: A Seminole War Battle in Gadsden County, Florida.

Two Egg TV has documented the restoration of the prehistoric mound and will soon release a documentary on the project.

Proceeds from the books have helped fund the placement of two historical markers at the park. One commemorates a War of 1812 British fort that once stood there and a second tells the story of the Chattahoochee Landing Mound group. A third, which details the Scott Massacre of 1817, is currently on order and will be dedicated on December 2, 2017.

Chattahoochee Main Street approved the project, which is located in the Main Street district, and helped raise funds for its completion.

The project took a massive amount of clay. It was donated by Gadsden County.

The City of Chattahoochee unanimously approved the restoration of the mound, placed a water line to the site and provided other logistical help.

Plans for the mound were prepared for free as a community service by employees of David H. Melvin, Inc. Consulting Engineers of Marianna.

Chattahoochee Councilman L.B. “Bernie” Howell has volunteered scores of hours to assist with the project and has provided enormous help in coordinating the various individuals and entities involved. He is also donating from his own pocket.

L.B. “Bernie” Howell (L) and Sean Neal (R) examine the mound at the completion of the building and compaction phase. The mound is expected to be sodded this week.

Sean Neel and his employees at Neal Contracting, LLC (850-693-0541) have donated many hours of construction work and heavy equipment use while charging only for essentials.

Robert Presnell and Gadsden County donated the clay used in restoring the main bulk of the mound.

Two Egg TV has documented the entire restoration process on video and will soon release a documentary about how the project was accomplished.

Rachael Conrad of Two Egg TV assisted in flagging the area where the reconstructed mound was built.

Original construction of the archaeologically significant Chattahoochee Landing Mound Group is believed to have begun during the Swift Creek cultural era (100-800 A.D.) and continued into the Fort Walton era (900-1500 A.D.).

The complex is thought to have included at least seven mounds, all of which served as the platforms for prehistoric structures. An eighth mound, where burials were located, once stood on the opposite side of the Apalachicola River in Jackson County but was destroyed by erosion.

To learn more about River Landing Park and its prehistoric mounds, please enjoy this free guided tour courtesy of Chattahoochee Main Street, Visit Florida and Two Egg TV:

Riding the Apalachicola River with Capt. Gill

Join us for a journey through the estuary of the Apalachicola River with Capt. Gill Autrey:

You can learn more about Capt. Gill’s River Cruises by visiting  www.captgill.com.

Here are some additional photos from our cruise on the lower Apalachicola River:

The waterfront of historic Apalachicola, Florida.
The Apalachicola River not far upstream from its mouth.
Bloody Bluff Landing was once called “Dueling Bluff.” U.S. forces occupied the bluff as a command post during the attack on the Fort at Prospect Bluff (“Negro Fort”).
Prospect Bluff, site of the British Post (later called the “Negro Fort) and Fort Gadsden, was the scene of the deadliest cannon shot in American history.
An osprey nest in the estuary of the Apalachicola River, Florida.
The beautiful marshes of the Apalachicola River estuary.

If you would like to see more about historic Apalachicola, Florida, click below for a tour of the city and its history:

CSS Chattahoochee: Their Dreams Exploded (New Video)

Our new documentary – CSS Chattahoochee: Their Dreams Exploded – is now available for viewing free on your tv set through our Roku channel or you can stream it right here! We hope that you enjoy it and find it to be of interest.