A patchwork of public land on both sides of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Timucuan Preserve encompasses sites of historic, cultural, and ecological interest scattered between Amelia Island and Mayport.
Most of these sites are directly tied to the indigenous people of this region, the Timucua, and their interactions with the Europeans who attempted to settle here.
Formally known as the the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve, this is a well-interpreted National Park, with signage filling in the mysteries that surround this region’s long and storied history.
Trailhead: 30.385751, -81.497519
Fees: Access is free to all units of Timucuan Preserve
Open: Varies. The park visitor center is at Fort Caroline, open 9 AM to 4:30 PM daily. Hours vary for all units, and some close for Christmas and Thanksgiving. See park hours details.
Accessible facilities are available at Fort Caroline, Kingsley Plantation, Ribault Column, and Spanish Pond. Dogs are welcome, but must be leashed.
A diverse collection of historic and cultural sites are preserved under the umbrella of Timucuan Preserve. Perhaps the most ancient of these is a massive midden along the shores of the St. Johns River, which you can climb up and over and around by hiking the trails of the Theodore Roosevelt Area, one of the most scenic and satisfying destinations for hiking in the Jacksonville metro.
Adjoining this rugged landscape and not far by foot is Spanish Pond, so named for an encampment of Spaniards from St. Augustine who sought to slaughter the residents of the new French colony established at Fort Caroline. Up the road from Fort Caroline is the Ribault Monument, a marker denoting where the French disembarked their ships to claim Florida for France in 1562.
North of the St. Johns River, the preserve includes estuary along the rivers and creeks that feed the mighty river’s basin, as well as the northern tip of Fort George Island, home to one of Florida’s historical treasures, the well-preserved remains of a cotton and sugar cane plantation dating back to 1799. On Amelia Island, Timucuan Preserve interprets the story of American Beach, established in 1935 by A.L. Lewis, president of the Afro American Insurance Company in Jacksonville. It remained a safe haven for people of color through the end of segregation. It is home to the tallest dune on the Atlantic Coast of Florida.
Explore the park
- American Beach - Home to the largest dune system on the Atlantic Coast in Florida, American Beach has a rich history as a vacation destination that served the African-American community during the days of segregation in the South.
- Fort Caroline - At the site of the original French settlement in Florida, explore the rich natural and cultural history of the region at the Timucuan Preserve visitor center, Fort Caroline, and its interpretive nature trail.
- Fort George Island Cultural State Park - With layer upon layer of human habitation atop the highest natural hill on the southeastern Atlantic Coast, Fort George Island offers a long look at the past.
- Kingsley Plantation - One of the historic treasures of Timucuan Preserve in Jacksonville, Kingsley Plantation interprets the everyday lives of free and enslaved peoples on an early Florida plantation.
- Ribault Column - On a high bluff above the St. Johns River, a memorial pays tribute to the French expedition led by Jean Ribault that claimed Florida for France in 1562, three years before St. Augustine was founded.
- Spanish Pond - A connector trail to the Theodore Roosevelt Area from the Fort Caroline area, the Spanish Pond Trail at Timucuan Preserve provides a 2-mile round-trip into early Florida history.
- Theodore Roosevelt Area - The Theodore Roosevelt Area of Timucuan Preserve provides one of the best hikes in the Jacksonville area, combining rugged terrain with cultural history and scenic views.