|Etymology||George Montagu-Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax|
|Cities||Ormond Beach, FL, Holly Hill, FL, Daytona Beach, FL, South Daytona, FL, Port Orange, FL|
|• location||Tomoka State Park, Volusia County, FL|
|• elevation||5 ft (1.5 m)|
|Ponce Inlet, Volusia County, FL|
|0 ft (0 m)|
|Length||25 mi (40 km)|
|Basin size||1,009 sq mi (2,610 km2)|
|• location||Ponce Inlet, FL|
|• left||Halifax Creek|
|• right||Tomoka River, Spruce Creek|
The Halifax River is part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, located in northeast Volusia County, Florida. The waterway was originally known as the North Mosquito River, but was renamed after George Montagu-Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax (for whom Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada is also named), during the British occupation of Florida (1763–1784).
The Halifax River originates at Tomoka Bay, at the confluence of the Tomoka River, Bulow Creek, and Halifax Creek, adjoining Tomoka State Park. The Halifax River's drainage basin (or catchment) includes most of eastern Volusia County, which includes the flow from the Tomoka River and Halifax Creek. The total area covered is 1008.3 km². Water flows south for a distance of 25 miles (40 km). The Halifax River merges with Spruce Creek and the Mosquito Lagoon just before it connects to the Atlantic Ocean via the Ponce de Leon Inlet.
The Halifax River runs through the cities of Ormond Beach, and Daytona Beach. It also runs next to the Jackie Robinson Ballpark on City Island and the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse. The Halifax Harbor Marina is located on the waterway as well.
The Halifax River runs through two cities, and past four cities and one town, and was used to define portions of these cities' borders. The middle of the riverbed at the time the borders were established was the line to define the borders between cities. The cities below have either historic significance or cultural lore connecting them to the Halifax River. They are ordered from the beginning of the river to its end.
The area of the Halifax River was first settled about 7,000 years ago, by Native American tribes who were the ancestors of tribes such as the Timucua Indians. The natives lived on fish and oysters, leaving shell mounds on both sides of the Halifax River. Most of the shell mounds were used by later settlers to build roads, but a few remain in the area, preserved as historical sites, such as Green Mound, Nocoroco, Ormond Mound, and Spruce Creek Mound Complex. The natives were likely part of the St. Johns culture.
After Juan Ponce de León claimed Florida in April 1513, and Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established St. Augustine in 1565, the Spanish continued to explore the region. In 1569 Captain Antonio de Prado first explored the area around Ponce de Leon Inlet (which he named los Mosquitos, due to the large number of gnats that inhabited the area), and mentioned Nocoroco in his report to the King of Spain, noting that the village was located between two rivers (now known as Tomoka and Halifax). In 1605, Spanish explorer Alvaro Mexia visited and mapped the Halifax River area (named North Mosquito River on his map), noting the native villages of Nocoroco, Cacaroy, Cicale, and Caparaca in his report.
The Spanish brought in Franciscan friars and established Catholic Missions in Florida, in an attempt to convert the natives to Christianity. At their peak, there were 44 such Spanish missions in Florida, and some of them may have been in the Halifax River area. The Spanish also recruited the natives to grow food on primitive farms. However, epidemics of yellow fever in 1649, smallpox in 1650, and measles in 1659 decimated both the Indian and Spanish population in Florida. Several Indian revolts also decimated the population further. By the time Spain ceded Florida to the British in 1763, they had little progress to show for their efforts in the colony and Florida was left as a "hollow shell", practically devoid of population when the Spanish evacuated.
Spain ceded Florida to the British in 1763, in exchange for Cuba, at the end of the Seven Years' War/French and Indian War. Britain then divided the territory into East Florida and West Florida, and gave out many land grants to encourage settlers. During the survey of these land grants, the Halifax River received its name in honor of Lord Halifax, who was the British President of the Board of Trade. The British Council of East Florida made 576 grants on family right totaling more than 210,000 acres (850 km2), and 114 grants, totaling 1,443,000 acres (5,840 km2), by the approval of the King. After the American Revolution began, Florida became the destination for loyalists from the southern colonies, who were offered land free of taxes or levies for ten years. Colonists that settled in the Halifax River area named their colony Halifax City, which was located near present-day Allandale in Port Orange.
It was during the British occupation when Dr. Andrew Turnbull created the notorious New Smyrna colony, just to the south of the Halifax River, in 1768. The New Smyrna colonists complained about mistreatment during their indentured servitude, and the British Governor in St. Augustine eventually allowed them to leave.
The Spanish joined with the French on the Colonial side, against the British during the American Revolution. After the British loss, they surrendered Florida to Spain in exchange for the Bahamas in the Treaty of Paris (1783). According to the terms of the treaty, the British were obligated to evacuate their colonial subjects; however, Spain allowed any colonists to stay, provided they agreed to swear allegiance to the Spanish Kingdom and convert to Catholicism.
During this occupation period, the Spanish made three large land grants in the Halifax River area, one of which went to James Ormond, a Scottish sea captain. Ormond transported Franciscan friars to Florida for the Spanish, who gave him the 2,000-acre (8.1 km2) grant in 1807 as compensation. Two other Spanish land grants (roughly encompassing Daytona Beach and Port Orange) went to absentee landlords, and the areas remained undeveloped.
Boating is a popular activity, and there are several marinas and yacht clubs located throughout the Halifax River. The Halifax River Yacht Club was founded in 1896.
Fishing is another popular activity in the Halifax River. Fishing is allowed from boats, the banks of the river, or from any of the bridges crossing the waterway. Some of the species that can be found include: trout, catfish, flounder, sheepshead, tarpon, snook, black drum, mangrove snapper and red drum.
The Halifax river supports a diverse community of waterfowl, wading birds, fish, and other wildlife. The river and several of its tributaries (Tomoka River, Strickland, Thomson and Dodson Creek) are designated as a Manatee Sanctuary. Other rare species that inhabit the river basin include the wood stork, bald eagle, and Atlantic salt marsh snake. Numerous other birds can be viewed in the general area of the Halifax River Basin.
The Halifax River Trail forms part of the East Coast Greenway, a system of trails connecting Maine to Florida.
Prior to 1913, navigation channels and canals in Florida were maintained chiefly by private enterprise. In 1882 the Florida East Coast Line Canal and Transportation Co. was organized to develop a waterway from Jacksonville to Biscayne Bay by connecting with canals the St Johns, Matanzas, and Halifax rivers, Mosquito Lagoon, Indian river, Lake Worth, Hillsboro river, New river, and Snake Creek; in 1908 this vast undertaking was completed.
The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1927, passed by Congress, authorized the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, using the route planned out by the Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers. The Waterway was valuable during World War II, after German submarines sank numerous merchant ships off the East Coast. The Corps continues to maintain the navigation channel today, conducting dredgings as needed.
A Great Egret wades near the west bank of the Halifax River.
Mallard Ducks swim in the Halifax River near Daytona Beach.
A Brown Pelican rests on a navigation marker near Ormond Beach.
A Great Blue Heron near the west bank of the Halifax River.
American White Ibis' hunt for food on the bank of the Halifax River.
A hungry Little Blue Heron feasts on a fish in the Halifax River.
A Double Crested Cormorant rests on an abandoned piling.
Birds gather at the Port Orange Wildlife Sanctuary.
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