Is the Biblical Garden of Eden Really Found in This Florida State Park? Unpacking the Myth

Torreya park, garden of eden?

Torreya State Park in Florida’s northern panhandle may seem like an ordinary nature preserve at first glance. However, some individuals believe it holds historical and biblical significance, claiming it could be the true location of the mythical Garden of Eden.

Elvy E. Callaway, a former lawyer turned minister, dedicated much of his life to the study of this area. In 1971, he proposed that the geographical features of the park, particularly the Apalachicola River’s four-headed system, corresponded with the biblical depiction of Eden.

This theory, while unconventional, has drawn curiosity and attracted visitors, adding a unique layer of intrigue to this tranquil Floridian park.

Trees in Torreya State Park Are Among the Rarest and Oldest in the World

Torreya State Park, nestled along the Apalachicola River in Florida, is home to some of the most unique and endangered trees on the planet. The park, which was established in the 1930s, features the rare Florida Torreya trees.

These trees, scientifically known as Torreya taxifolia, are considered among the rarest and oldest by state officials.

Facts About the Florida Torreya Trees

  • Scientific Name: Torreya taxifolia
  • Common Name: Florida Torreya or “Stinking cedar”
  • Location: Bluffs and ravines of Gadsden and Liberty Counties, Florida
  • Known for: Endangered status, rarity, old age, and unique smell when cut or bruised
  • Discovery: Circa 1835 by Hardy Bryan Croom
  • Named After: Dr. John Torrey, a 19th-century scientist

Historical Significance and Conservation

The discovery of these unique trees dates back to around 1835 when an early botanist, Hardy Bryan Croom, identified them. He honored Dr. John Torrey, a distinguished scientist of the 19th century, by naming the species after him.

The Florida Torreya, also known colloquially as “stinking cedar” due to its peculiar odor when cut, is now protected within the state park due to its endangered status.

Elvy Callaway’s Controversial Theory

The peculiar nature and ancient history of the Torreya trees have even led to some fascinating local folklore. In the mid-1900s, Elvy Callaway, a minister and retired lawyer from Bristol, dedicated years to studying this area.

He boldly asserted that the geography and unique features of the park bore a striking resemblance to the biblical Garden of Eden.

According to Callaway, certain descriptions in the Book of Genesis matched the topography found along the Apalachicola River. Specifically, Genesis mentions a river flowing from Eden and separating into four river heads, which Callaway believed could only correspond here or in Siberia.

Considering Siberia’s extreme cold, Callaway theorized that the biblical landscape must be located in Florida.

The Garden of Eden Trail

Callaway’s claims led to the establishment of a Garden of Eden-themed trail near Bristol. This almost 4-mile-long trail in the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve takes hikers on a journey through lush forests towards Alum Bluff.

Here, visitors are offered breathtaking views of the Apalachicola River. The trail, dotted with many endangered Torreya trees, has become a symbol of Callaway’s dedication and passion.

Interesting Theories and Beliefs

  • Gopher Wood Connection: Callaway noted that residents of Bristol referred to the Torreya trees as “Gopher wood.” Some interpretations of the Bible suggest that Noah’s Ark was built using Gopher wood. This belief added another layer of conviction for Callaway’s theory.
  • Spiritual Interpretations: Callaway argued that unlike popular belief, the “Tree of Knowledge” mentioned in the Bible is metaphorical and not meant to be a tangible apple tree found in the park.

Park Attractions and Visitor Information

Torreya State Park offers more than just legends. The natural beauty and rarity of the Torreya trees draw nature enthusiasts and conservationists alike.

The challenging hiking trails, lush landscapes, and the opportunity to see one of the world’s rarest trees in its natural habitat make it a remarkable destination.

For those interested in exploring Torreya State Park further or aspiring to walk the Garden of Eden trail, additional information is available on the Florida State Parks website. This park serves as a testament to the natural wonders Florida has to offer and the fascinating historical theories that surround it.

Editorial Credit: EbyabeCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Posted by Samuel Brown

Samuel Brown is the founder of, a Christian blog intertwining gardening with spiritual growth. Through, Samuel explores the biblical symbolism of gardens, offering practical gardening tips infused with spiritual insights. Inspired by Jeremiah 17:8, he emphasizes the parallels between nurturing plants and cultivating faith. Join Samuel on a journey where gardening becomes a metaphor for resilience, spiritual fruitfulness, and a deeper connection with God's creation.