Indian Temple Mound & Museum: Historic Fort Walton Beach

    By Gary McKechnie

    When you drive along Highway 98 in Fort Walton Beach there's a chance you may miss something that is really something.

    On the north side of the 100 block of the Miracle Strip Parkway (aka Highway 98) is a large earthen mound built by the Pensacola culture Indians who lived here and built this around 800 CE (or perhaps 1600 CE no one knows). Either way this was a center of religious political and social activity and is still considered a sacred burial ground. One of the largest mounds found by saltwater this has a footprint of about 50 000 square feet a width of 223 feet and a height of 12 feet.

    I think most of us have driven by a place we’re familiar with see that it’s gone and then remember that and the other places that preceded it. Here that feeling is a little different. When you come here you’re in the middle of a trendy retail district and then you turn around and see evidence of Florida before it was Florida. The people that lived here were 1 000 years away from electric light and cars and airplanes and radio and television. They were completely unaware that Spanish explorers would arrive in 1513 and that wars would be fought for possession of their land (and all the land to the Florida Keys) and that a new nation would be created from this shore to the Pacific Ocean. Can you imagine them seeing that the place where they lived and worked and worshipped and hunted and fished is in the center of a commercial district?

    It’s a strange juxtaposition and it fascinates me.

    When you come the Indian Temple Mound and Museum showcases prehistoric American Indian artifacts and weaponry as well as a few hands-on exhibits on later Native American and Floridian history. The museum is part the Fort Walton Beach Heritage Park & Cultural Center (850/833–9595) and your admission ($5) also includes the Indian Temple Mound Museum Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum and Garnier Post Office Museum.

    This is one of three surviving mound complexes in the panhandle the others being Tallahassee’s Letchworth-Love Archaeological State Park and the Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park.