Florida: Columbia County

Columbia County (pop. 67,531) is north of Gilchrist County, on the border with Georgia. Its population has grown from 20,077 in 1960.

One of eight Columbia counties

With its rivers and natural springs, Columbia County calls itself “The Freshwater Capital of America.” The Santa Fe River is in the south, and the Suwannee River is in the north.

Santa Fe River

The county seat of Columbia County is the city of Lake City (pop. 12,046), which was originally known as Alligator Town.

Columbia County Courthouse (1905)

Lake City has several lakes within the city limits, including Alligator Lake. This alligator was photographed at Lake DeSoto – not Alligator Lake.

Only about 3.5 feet long

Lake City is located near the intersection of Interstate 75 (the major route to Florida from Michigan, Ohio, and Atlanta) and Interstate 10 (the major route to Florida from California and Texas).

The former Columbia County High School, built in 1921, now contains administrative offices for the school district.

On the National Register of Historic Places

George Allen “Pat” Summerall (1930-2013), NFL player and TV sportscaster, was born in Lake City and played football, basketball, baseball, and tennis at Columbia County High School.

There are about 100 natural springs within 50 miles of Lake City.

Ichetucknee Springs State Park

The six-mile Ichetucknee River is extremely popular for innertubing. Seasonal shuttle service is available for riders.

Year-round (water) temperature of 72 degrees

A few miles east, at O’Leno State Park, the Santa Fe River disappears into a sinkhole – and reappears 3.5 miles away at River Rise Preserve State Park.

O’Leno

NEXT: BAKER COUNTY

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South Carolina: Florence County

Florence County (pop. 136,885) is west of Marion County. The only other Florence County is in Wisconsin.

The county seat is the city of Florence (pop. 37,056). It’s the eastern terminus of Interstate 20 (going west to Texas) and is about halfway between New York City and Miami on Interstate 95.

653 miles to Miami, 624 miles to New York City

The central library for Florence County is the Doctors Bruce and Lee Foundation Library in Florence; it was built in 2004 for a cost of $13.5 million.

It has the largest children’s library in the state.

Francis Marion University is about six miles east of Florence. The public university has about 4,000 students.

Established in 1970

The city of Timmonsville (pop. 2,320), birthplace of auto racer Cale Yarborough, has a large Honda plant that produces all-terrain vehicles.

The plant’s 2.5-millionth ATV, in 2012

The city of Lake City (pop. 6,478) was the hometown of Ronald McNair, one of the seven astronauts who died on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986.

He had a Ph.D. in physics from MIT.

Mars Bluff, an unincorporated area east of Florence, was accidentally bombed with a nuclear weapon by a U.S. Air Force B-47  in 1958. About 7,600 pounds of conventional explosives exploded, destroying one home and creating a 30-foot-deep crater.

The fissionable uranium and plutonium were not in the Mark 6 bomb at the time.

NEXT: CLARENDON COUNTY

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Minnesota: Wabasha County

Wabasha County (pop. 21,676) is east of Goodhue County and across the Mississippi River from Wisconsin.

Much of the county is adjacent to Lake Pepin, the largest natural lake along the Mississippi.

It’s about 20 miles long and two miles wide.

According to legend, Lake Pepin is the home of a lake monster that bears a resemblance to the Loch Ness Monster.

Laura Ingalls Wilder was born just a few miles from Lake Pepin – in the “big woods” on the Wisconsin side.

The county seat of Wabasha County is the town of Wabasha (pop. 2,521), located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Chippewa rivers.

Downtown Wabasha

Wabasha was the setting for the movies “Grumpy Old Men” and “Grumpier Old Men.”

Although not actually filmed there

Wabasha now hosts a Grumpy Old Men Festival every February.

Events include Frostbite Frisbee.

The Anderson House Hotel (1856) in Wabasha was the oldest continuously operating inn in Minnesota until it closed in 2009.

The Anderson House Hotel

The National Eagle Center is in Wabasha.

The interpretive center overlooks the Mississippi.

Lake City (pop. 5,067) is the largest city in Wabasha County. In 1890 a Mississippi excursion boat, the Sea Wing, overturned on Lake Pepin near Lake City in a storm, resulting in the drowning deaths of 98 persons.

Lake City City Hall (1899)

Ralph Samuelson (1904-77) of Lake City invented the sport of water skiing on Lake Pepin in 1922.

NEXT: WINONA COUNTY

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