History Behind A Name: Ponce Inlet

Tue, Feb 04, 2020 at 12:25PM

History Behind A Name: Ponce Inlet

For such a historic location, it should come as no surprise that there is actually a hefty amount of history behind the naming of Ponce Inlet. Unbeknownst to many, the waterway from which the lighthouse takes its name was called Mosquito Inlet until 1927! Let’s journey into the past and discover the history of this fascinating place.

Ponce Inlet is named after Juan Ponce De Leon, the famous Spanish conquistador who is credited with "discovering" Florida in 1513. Although it is unknown if De Leon actually entered the inlet while surveying the east coast of Florida, historic documents clearly show that a Spanish explorer named Captain Antonio De Prado surveyed the inlet in 1569, only four years after the colony of Saint Augustine was founded in 1565. De Prado entered the inlet to map the area and search for an east-west passage across the Florida peninsula. He was so overwhelmed by the clouds of mosquitos that descended upon him and his crew while exploring the area he christened the inlet Los Mosquitos in their dubious honor. So accurate and informative was the name that it stuck for more than 300 years.

Naming the inlet after the mosquito was neither surprising nor unique. The central portion of the Florida peninsula stretching west from the Atlantic coast to nearly the eastern shore of Tampa Bay and south from Matanzas Inlet to Hillsboro Inlet was originally called Mosquito County. The large tidal estuary located just north of Cape Canaveral was named Mosquito Lagoon and the inland waterway that parallels Florida's east coast from the Tomoka Basin near the Volusia/Flagler county line to Merrit Island to the south was named Mosquito River. 

The Mosquito River was eventually divided into two halves during the English period, becoming the Indian River from Mosquito Inlet south to Merrit Island and the Halifax River from the inlet north to the Tomoka Basin. The mid-to-late-1800s also witnessed the division of Mosquito County into the smaller, more manageable counties of Flagler, Volusia, Brevard, Orange, Polk, Lake, and others. Mosquito Inlet kept its name until the early 1900s when it was rechristened Ponce de Leon Inlet in an effort to attract potential home buyers to the area. Although the Florida land-boom was in full-swing at the time, real estate developers found marketing land named after the biting insect a tough sell. They thought Ponce de Leon Inlet sounded much more appealing than Mosquito Inlet. The Florida Legislature agreed with the developers and officially renamed the inlet in honor of Juan Ponce de Leon in 1928. Only Mosquito Lagoon retains its historic name. 


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