During the 19th Century, sea captains off the northwestern coast of Florida would navigate their vessels towards the entrance to the St. Marks river using a dark plume of smoke as a bearing.
The Seminole Indians first reported the smoke. By 1830 the phenomenon was also being reported by white settlers. Many explained the smoke as the campfires of local Indian settlements, smugglers, or pirates—some said it was a volcano.
Although the smoke was never positively identified, it was clearly visible from the hills of Tallahassee, the St. Marks Lighthouse, and taller buildings in Wakulla County, Florida. At night the area that produced the smoke was lit by an eerie luminescence.
Eventually dubbed the " Wakulla Volcano" by area residents, a legend grew that it was Florida's volcano. While many tried to reach the source of the smoky plume, all attempts failed. A treacherous swamp filled with bogs, quicksand, alligators, poisonous snakes and other manner of deathtraps surrounded the location of the smoky plume. Although several adventurers made concerted attempts to reach the source, all admitted they never got any closer than 10 miles.
The phenomena continued to mystify the locals, and the sea captains still accurately navigated by the smoke.
Just before the advent of the 20th Century, on August 31, 1886, the dark plume suddenly disappeared. The time of the disappearance coincided with an earthquake that rocked the region that day with such force that church bells rang in Tallahassee.
During the early 1900s people would come forward from time to time claiming they had located the famous "lost volcano." They testified that they had seen boulders and charred rocks strewn about a blackened crater on a hill with a gaping chasm splitting open the earth.
When pressed, however, none were able to provide anything but a general location.
The Wakulla Volcano was never found.
Later in the 20th Century, though, an area was found that matched the early explorers' descriptions. It is adjacent to the Aucilla Sinks region where the Aucilla River rises and falls. Large limestone boulders clutter the area. Black lichen grows on many of the boulders creating the illusion they are charred.
Researchers decided that the smoke seen by so many during the latter half of the 1800s was nothing more mysterious than a smoldering peat bog. The theory seems plausible until the surrounding terrain is taken into account: a wet, marshy swamp.
How could something burn for decades in the midst of so much water?
In October 1997, three researchers braved the swamp seeking the elusive volcano. They found some large rocks and smaller ones that were burned—but not from any volcanic heat. Try as they might they couldn't find evidence of any fissure, but it might not have been the correct area. No one really knows for sure.
Then there's this: some who claim to have found the remnants of the volcano have returned with molten rock. And just after World War II, an oil company that had set up drilling operations near the area where some said the volcano was located hit volcanic rock with their drill bits.
Site of supposed Wakulla Volcano