A stop along the Bartram Trail, the Beecher Run Nature Trail at Welaka National Fish Hatchery provides a walk beneath ancient pines along the edge of the hatchery ponds, which are fed by historic Beecher Spring.
Walking along a sand road crunching oak leaves underfoot like cornflakes, you’d hardly believe Dunns Creek State Park is along a bend in the St. Johns River. But it’s easy to miss the state’s biggest river when you have 6,200 acres to roam.
Following a series of forest roads through the heart of Welaka State Forest, the John’s Landing Trail has several scenic spots along its 4.3-mile loop, from bluffs along the St. Johns River to shimmering lily-covered flatwoods ponds.
One of Florida’s largest mounds, Mount Royal was first documented by William Bartram in 1765, when it was an important central feature of a large village along the St. Johns River.
At Mud Spring, mud isn’t what you’ll see in the gently rounded basin that cradles an underwater garden. This glassy natural pool is the payoff halfway around a 1.7-mile hike that is one of the highlights of Welaka State Forest.
With hiking in scrubby flatwoods and sandhills above forested slopes draining to Murphy Creek, as well as on Murphy Island in the St. Johns River, this water management preserve provides two places to explore.
Learning how botanists William and John Bartram traveled along the St. Johns River in the 1700s, I followed an experienced river guide for a look at part of the Bartram National Recreation Trail from the water on our Bartram Adventure Tour in Palatka.
Along the St. Johns River, Palatka is just east of the Florida Trail and 15 minutes from the Ocala National Forest, providing a great gateway to outdoor adventures.
Recently re-imagined to showcase the beauty of the St. Johns River, Palatka Riverfront Park offers a quarter-mile riverfront walk with panoramic views.
On the grounds of the Water Works Environmental Education Center, explore the historic Palatka Water Works and a short interpretive trail dedicated to William Bartram’s travels as Puc Puggy, the Flower Hunter.
Known best for its hillsides of blooming azaleas each February, Ravine Gardens State Park melds historic planted public gardens with the intriguing setting of a deep steephead ravine above the St. Johns River in Palatka.
A destination for environmental education with a dash of regional history, the St. Johns River Center in downtown Palatka tells the story of Florida’s longest and most storied river.