Stephen Foster is one of America’s most influential composers. He was not a Southerner; he was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. One of his songs, “Old Folks at Home” made the Suwannee River known all over the world. This park on the Suwannee River was created as a memorial to Foster for that reason.
The Florida National Scenic Trail runs through this park too. This official state trail, designated as one of 11 National Scenic Trails in the US, runs more than 1,400 miles from Miami in the south to Pensacola on the west end of the panhandle. So, of course, we hiked it for a while, so now we have bragging rights that we hiked The Florida National Scenic Trail, right?
Also inside the park there is The Stephen Foster Memorial Carillon, Florida’s tribute to Stephen Foster. Inside this tower is one of the largest musical instruments ever produced in the Western Hemisphere and the world’s largest tubular carillon in number of bells (97), installed in 1958. (Built by J.C. Deagan, Inc., of Chicago.)
Inside the tower a huge wood rack supports 27 tons of 97 tubular bells and measures 21 feet high, 15 feet long, and 11 feet wide. The carillon is being restored and currently only 32 of the bells are done. During the day the bells will ring on the quarter and half hour, and on the top of the hour they ring out one of Stephen Foster’s songs.
Just outside the park entrance, in the little town of White River, on the banks of the Suwannee River, is what is left of a health resort from the mid 1800’s. Only the original concrete wall and gate remain. This was built over a white sulfur spring believed to hold curative powers.
The park is getting ready for its Festival of Lights, which begins December 6. Park workers are busy setting up the light displays and getting things ready for the opening day celebration on Friday. The park closes to the public after dark right now but the lights have been turned on already so us campers have the place to ourselves. Nice!
“Beautiful Dreamer”, “Camptown Races”, “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”, “My Old Kentucky Home”, “Oh! Susanna”, and “Old Folks at Home” are some of Stephen Foster’s more well known of the 200 songs he wrote.
“Old Folks at Home” is Florida’s state song, and “My Old Kentucky Home” is the Kentucky state song.
- Gasoline Expense: none
- Lodging Expense: $22
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