See shipwrecks below Blackwater River
Underwater cameras will be used in creating the upcoming Blackwater Maritime Heritage Trail according to Doug Lasater, president of Bagdad Waterfronts Florida Partnership Inc., who spoke before Milton city council, March 3. Lasater said the web-based trail will focus in phase one of the Blackwater River from the Interstate 10 bridge to Carpenter's Park. Dr. Richard Lewis, vice-president, said the project has been in the works for two years and he gave a rough estimate of six months for completion. Lewis confirmed the idea for the project will see a website where visitors can travel Blackwater River through images and video above and below the water, learning area history including the Arcadia Mill, and numerous shipwrecks below the Blackwater River surface.
Lewis echoed what Lasater said at the council meeting; shipwreck information will be available through the project, but not exact locations. Lewis said those who wish to illegally salvage wrecks from the river would not be able to use this project to find them. Lewis said there would be few if any physical signs or markers along the trail as they would be unattractive. Ben Wells, graduate student at University of West Florida, who is using the project as his master’s thesis, said the project revolves around the cultural and archeological sites along the river. He said the trail will include a photo and video gallery as well as narration over video along the river. “The idea,” Wells said, “is to create a choose your own adventure style experience, where someone who may be interested in the lumber industry can find information about it or those interested in the Civil War can find information about the shipyards.”
Sponsors for the project include the Blackwater Pyrates, an organization "formed to be of service in the local community," by "helping with projects or needs on or related to the water," according to the Pyrates' website. Captain Whitebeard, Walter Schumann, said there are about 13 shipwrecks in the Blackwater River, three of which are visible from the bridge at Shields Point road. Schumann said the location is still unknown of the wreck of the H.M.S. Mentor, a British galleon lost in the Blackwater River in 1781. Wells said still shots will be able to show viewers some of the wreckage in the river, fulfilling one of the goals of the project, which is to best protect, preserve, and share the wreck sites so boaters, for example, don’t drop anchor and accidentally damage a wreck. He said the trail will serve as both a historical trail and a nature trail with images, video and information on bird nesting areas, fish, and alligators; a base for future trails further along the Blackwater and tributaries. Both Walls and Lewis gave six month estimates towards utilizing the virtual trail.