Pre-Columbian natives visited St. George Island to collect seafood during its estimated 5,000-year existence, as evidenced by the remnant middens. Incised ceramics, stone gaming pieces, and a grinding stone are among the recovered items. “Cat-face” scars on the larger slash pines reflect the turpentined forests of early to mid-1900s. During World War II, troops at Camp Gordon Johnson used the Island for training exercises over the vast dune landscape. Acquisition of park land in 1963, and the 1965 completion of the Bryant G. Patton Bridge across Apalachicola Bay to St. George Island, led to increased recreational use. The park facilities were completed in 1980 and the park opened officially as a state park at that time.
William Augustus Bowles
In 1799 the schooner Fox was shipwrecked off the coast of St. George Island. The Fox carried British citizen William Augustus Bowles, a self-styled leader of the Creek Cherokee nation. Having escaped after five years of imprisonment under the Spanish, Bowles was returning to Spanish-controlled Florida hoping to reestablish his prominence among the Creek and drive the Spanish out of the territory. Although he later managed to capture the fort at San Marcos just up the coast, peace between Britain and Spain brought an end to his campaign and he was captured again by the Spanish in 1803.
World War II
During World War II, the Island was used by troops training at Camp Gordon Johnston, just up the road in Carrabelle. Numerous amphibious training exercises were carried out over the area's vast dunes. Remnants of practice bombs and artillery shells are still found at the park.
Cat Faced Trees
Turpentine harvesting and cattle raising were historic practices on St. George Island. The park has the oldest stand of slash pine found on a barrier island and most of the old pine trees show evidence of harvesting for turpentine. Slashes were made on the trees to harvest the resin to be used to make turpentine. Containers called Herty cups were hung on the trees to collect the resin. Some of these Herty cups are available to view in interpretive kiosks in the campground and in display cases at the ranger station.
Barrier islands buffer the mainland from tropical storms and are often washed over. Taking the brunt of such storms. St. George Island has experienced many tropical storms and hurricanes and each one changes the landscape. In 2005, Hurricane Dennis destroyed most of the facilities and equipment in the park. The park was reopened fully after 15 months.
Sand dunes are “living” examples of how land moves. The majestic, historic sand dunes migrate toward the mainland, covering and changing the landscape over time. Stumps from large trees can be found in the surf and along the shoreline, illustrating further evidence of the shifting barrier island.