A pre-Columbian Native American shell midden dating back possibly to the Weedon Island Period 1,500 years ago sits along the shore of the Dead River. The midden was identified in 1998. Cat-faced pine trees scattered throughout the park serve as evidence of the late 1800s turpentine industry. Trees were scarred to release resin when processed into turpentine. On May 14, 1970, the state of Florida acquired the property through a land exchange with the U.S. Department of Interior and was renamed Ochlockonee River State Park.
Throughout the years, people have used the Ochlockonee River and its surroundings for recreational activities. In the early 1900s, many families would camp at the point locally known as the 'pull-over.' Here they fished, swam, boated and enjoyed nature. The term 'pull-over' comes from the days when timbered trees were pulled from the Dead River over to the Ochlockonee River and floated to saw mills. The Florida Park Service acquired the Ochlockonee River property in 1970 and developed the park as it is today. Swimming, camping, fishing and boating are still the main attractions of the park.
The turpentine industry was important to the local economy throughout the early 1900s. Much of the land around the Ochlockonee River was used for turpentining. Even now, cat-face scars can be found on trees in the park. A cat-face consists of a series of marks cut into the face of a pine tree that allowed resin to drain into a collection cup. Resin was then processed into turpentine at a still. The turpentine industry slowly died out as advanced techniques were developed to collect resin from timbered trees. Remnants of the turpentine industry found within the park are considered cultural resources and are protected.
Florida receives more lightning strikes than almost any other place in the world. Much of Florida's plant and animal life is either fire-dependent or fire-adapted. Most natural fires in Florida occur in the growing season. By mimicking these natural fires, park staff can maintain an environment similar to the landscape hundreds of years ago while also helping to prevent dangerous wildfires.
Ochlockonee River has maintained a prescribed burn program for 30 years. Mimicking natural fires, periodic prescribed burns provide for higher plant and animal diversity. Ochlockonee River has many rare and endangered species that depend on the prescribed burn program for their proliferation. The burn program also benefits the park and the surrounding area by greatly reducing the threat of wildfire within the park.