Exploring the St. Johns River outside of Jax
The 310-mile St. Johns River (one of the few rivers to flow north) has played a leading role in shaping the history, economy and culture of Florida. Visiting the river is as easy as making a trip to the Downtown Riverwalk, but there are a handful of other nearby locations that provide completely different views for those who enjoy nature. Located just south of a sharp bend in the river sits Dunns Creek State Park, some 6,200 acres of sandhills, pine scrub and wiregrass that protect endangered and threatened species such as the gopher tortoise. A romantic picnic area and 1.5-mile hiking trail (on U.S. 17, north of Pomona Park) offer a closer look at the water. In Putnam County, five miles south of Palatka, is the Murphy Creek Conservation Area, one of the few upland areas along the St. Johns the can be accessed by boat. High bluffs on the island provide spectacular views, and numerous wading birds, white-tailed deer, bald eagles and waterfowl can be spotted in the wetlands. About an hour south of Murphy Creek sits Castaways on the River, offering boat rentals and lodging in Central Florida. The surrounding area is teeming with crystal springs, freshwater fishing and wildlife and accommodations include both cottages and motel rentals.