From the 1500s through the 1700s, a natural land bridge served as a crossroad between the Santa Fe River Sink and the River Rise. It is still in existence today, and visitors can observe where the Santa Fe River disappears within O'Leno State Park, goes underground and then reemerges several miles away at River Rise Preserve State Park. Its flow is expelled from the underground unto the surface to continue its journey to the Suwannee River.
The natural land bridge between River Sink and River Rise was an important feature for the first European explorers of the area. In the Spanish mission period of the 1600s, the Spanish used a Native American trail for their road running from St. Augustine, over the Santa Fe land bridge, to Tallahassee and Pensacola, calling it the El Camino Real. In 1824, the federal government contracted with plantation owner John Bellamy to build the first federally funded road running from St. Augustine to Tallahassee. This dirt road followed the El Camino Real, passing over the Santa Fe land bridge within River Rise Preserve, and is still known as Bellamy Road today.
In 1974, approximately 4,500 acres were purchased by the Florida Park Service, creating River Rise Preserve State Park, which borders O'Leno State Park.