Long ago, Native Americans used the Big Shoals area as a quarry site to make stone-chipped tools. They also frequented the sulphur springs in nearby White Springs until European settlers arrived in the early 1800s. William Brinton Hooker, one of Florida’s first cattle kings, settled on the northern shore of the Suwannee in the 1830s. Hooker raised scrub cattle and black seed cotton. He built a ferry across the river in the mid-1830s. In the early 1900s, the land was purchased for logging and turpentine. Longleaf pines in the park still bear the scars of cat-face stripping of bark to collect resins for naval stores production.
Big Shoals offers the only designated Class III rapids in the state of Florida. It earns this classification any time the water level of the Suwannee River is between 59 and 61 feet above mean sea level.