During the Second Seminole War, the Hernandez-Capron Trail was built to link St. Augustine with Fort Pierce at St. Lucie. After the war, the new road allowed settlers to move into the Brevard/Indian River area. Ranchers used the road to move cattle until the 1970s. Around 1889, the Herndon family settled this land. Their homestead was burned in the early 1940s. Other families have built homesteads here, but none remain. The land has been used for growing citrus, ranching, turpentining and logging. The state began acquiring land in 1995.
In 1911 Nelson Fell, founder of the town of Fellsmere, began canal digging projects to drain wetlands near the St. Sebastian River for farming. The Trans Florida Central Railroad serviced Fellsmere. Engine Number 103 was built in 1888 and belonged to several different railroad companies before coming to the Trans Florida Central in 1924.
This axle spindle and railroad tie were found during prescribed burn procedures at the Preserve. Remaining segments of the Trans Florida Central Railroad - built in 1910 and also known as the Dinky Line - are normally buried in shallow depression marshes and visible only during drought periods.
Cattle ranching was one of the many prior industries on the land that now makes up the Preserve. The Circle F Ranch, established in 1946, included cow pens and a 5,000-pound weigh station for livestock.
St. Sebastian River Preserve has maintained the horse and ranching nature of the land for equestrian visitors by providing horse trails and camp sites. Eagle Camp, one of six ride-in camp sites, gives visitors and their horses a primitive camping experience. Eagle Camp is a five-mile ride from the parking area and features a lean-to, large paddock, campfire ring and benches.