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Words on the Wilderness:
A History of Place Names in South Floridaís National Parks

by Larry Perez

      Iím one of those who loves to hear the stories of old timers, read diaries of homesteaders, and wonder at the architecture of historic homes. The origins of words fascinate me as well, and I readily admit Iím a "word nerd." So, I was eager to read author Larry Perezís recent book, Words on the Wilderness: A History of Place Names in South Floridaís National Parks. It was right up my alley.†

Perez has a friendly, engaging style, so the book doesnít devolve into a boring litany of reference data. On the contrary, itís filled with short, intriguing anecdotes, related with affection. The book focuses on four of south Floridaís national parks: Big Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, and Everglades National Park. The author is a Miami native and has been a naturalist for Miami-Dade County Parks and a ranger for Biscayne and Everglades National Parks. Each of the four chapters of the book reveals a bit of history behind the names of well-known and not-so-well-known geographic features within a particular national park - and some of them are pretty interesting! †

For instance, Georges Strand, in the Big Cypress, was named after an outstandingly hospitable family: an African-American man named Cromartie who lived here with his wife Hattie, and their pet pig, Turner. And Caesar Creek Bank in the Biscayne was named after Black Caesar, an African chief destined to become a slave, who overpowered the slave shipís crew and became a notorious pirate of the eastern seaboard. Other places were named to honor benefactors, critters, and ships that foundered on the coral reefs.†

If you are contemplating a trip to south Florida, or are a resident who never fully explored these four national parks, get a copy of Larry Perezís Words on the Wilderness before you go. Not only will this treat of a book guide you to sites off the beaten path, you will appreciate the experience all the more because you know the story behind the name.

The Book

ECity Publishing
November 2007
Non-Fiction / Nature / History / Florida Travel
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The Reviewer

Deb Kincaid
Reviewed 2008
© 2008