Palatka (pronounced puh-lat-kuh) is a city in Putnam County, Florida, United States. The population was 10,033 at the 2000 census. As of 2004, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 10,796. It is the county seat of Putnam County and includes East Palatka. Palatka is the principal city of the Palatka Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is home to 72,893 residents. The city is also home to St. Johns River State College, St. Johns River Water Management District Headquarters, and Ravine Gardens State Park. The area is well known for its local festivals, most notably the Florida Azalea Festival and the Blue Crab Festival.
The area was once the domain of the Timucuan peoples, two tribes of which existed in the Palatka region under chiefs Saturiwa and Utina. They fished bass and mullet, or hunted deer, turkeys, bear and opossum. Others farmed beans, corn, melons, squash and tobacco. But infectious disease that came with European contact and war devastated the tribes, and they were extinct by the mid-18th century. The last people evacuated with the Spanish to Cuba in 1763, when Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain after the Seven Years War.
During the late eighteenth century, remnants of Creek and other tribes made their way to Florida. In a process of ethnogenesis, the Seminole tribe was formed. They called the location Pilo-taikita, meaning “crossing over”, or “cows’ crossing.” Here the St. Johns River narrows and begins a shallower, winding course upstream to Lake George and Lake Monroe.