Withlacoochee State Trail History
In the late 1800’s, an increase in phosphate mining activity in the area convinced railroad entrepreneur Henry Plant to extend his existing line from Tampa to Croom northward to Inverness to join the Silver Springs, Ocala, and Gulf Railroad, thus completing the Plant System’s west coast route. The Plant System eventually became Atlantic Coast Line in 1902, Seaboard Coast Line in 1967, and finally CSX Transportation in 1980.
Due to a decline in railroad use beginning in the 1960s, service was abandoned and tracks removed on many thousands of miles of rail corridor nationwide. In December of 1989, CSX transportation sold their 46 mile right of way between Gulf Juction (Citrus Springs) and Owensboro Junction, six miles north of Dade City, to the State of Florida. The corridor, one of the first purchased under the Florida Rails-to-Trails Program, is now managed by the Office of Greenways and Trails.
The route where rail passengers on the Southland and the West Coast Champion once traveled is now used by hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. Reminders of past railroad activity include cement mileage and whistle markers, the Lake Henderson trestle, and the privately owned Inverness Depot, built in 1892. Other points in interest along the trail traverses upland mixed forest, sandhill, and wetland communities and serves as a habitat for gopher tortoises. Transient species include bobcats, feral hogs, river otters, turkeys, deer, squirrels, and a wide variety of snakes, birds, and insects.
Last updated: May 31, 2011
3900 Commonwealth Boulevard M.S. 795
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3000