TPF PARK PROFILES

FIRST HAND EXPERIENCES IN THE PARKS

Click any of the “+” signs to read more about that park.

ABOUT

With such a wealth of recreational areas and preservation lands, Jacksonville’s fabulous urban park system starts with Alimacani Park. One of the Timucuan Trail parks, Alimacani Park offers a nice spot off the A1A roadway for a picnic, access to the waterways, and a touch of history and piracy thrown in for good measure.

LOCATION

11080 Heckscher Dr.

HOURS

Open year round.

HISTORY

Named after the native peoples who once called this area home, Alimacani Park is found on Xalvis Island next to the Fort George River and is part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve (itself a national park). Some of the first Europeans to arrive in northeast Florida landed here in 1562, seriously predating those pesky Pilgrims up north.

ACTIVITIES

The one-acre Alimacani Park sits directly off scenic Florida A1A (Heckscher Drive) which is also designated the Buccanner Trail–named for pirates such as Blackbeard who pillaged the coast. The boat ramp provides access to the Fort George River and its tributaries and awesome opportunities for exploration by jet ski, kayak, canoe or small jon boat. The marsh area offers ample bird observation. Other park features include picnic shelters, picnic tables, barbecue grills, and fishing access.

LOCATION

13990 Pumpkin Hill Road. Betz-Tiger Point Preserve is at the end of Pumpkin Hill Road.

HOURS

Sunrise to sunset.

DESCRIPTION

548 acres of coastal hammock and pine flatwoods with moss draped oaks, tall pine, palmetto, palms and other native plants. Gorgeous salt marsh vistas, water views and an abundance of wild life. The picnic pavilion, complete with tables and grills, is the perfect place to enjoy a meal. It’s not far to the observation deck overlooking Pumpkin Hill Creek and a favorite fishing spot. Another picnic table and bench are nearby. There is plenty of parking and restrooms are available.

HISTORY

The city of Jacksonville purchased this parcel in 2003 with Better Jacksonville Plan funds. The park was opened to the public in 2011.

ACTIVITIES

Fishing, kayak/canoe launch, family picnic pavilion and nature trails for biking, hiking and equestrian use.

OBSERVATIONS

The trails are closed until November, but the preserve is open.

NOTABLE

If you enjoy nature and solitude, this is an area that is a little farther away than both Cedar Creek Preserve and Pumpkin Hill Preserve. It truly is a hidden jewel.

ADVICE

As always, bring the bug repellent, sunscreen and water.

 

ABOUT THE PARK

Almost designated as a proposed septic sludge disposal site, Camp Milton Preserve is a Southern gem and one of the most important Civil War sites in Florida was preserved through the Preservation Project Jacksonville.

LOCATION

1175 Halsema Road, North, Jacksonville, FL 32220. Located just minutes from downtown, you can stroll down paths featuring historic trees with signage that explains their direct significance to the Civil War.

HOURS

9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. – 7 days a week; Admission is free.

HISTORY

Named for Florida Governor John Milton, it is one of the few camps that was occupied by both the Confederate and Union camps and the site of a number of skirmishes. In 1864, it was considered the largest encampment of Confederate forces in Florida with over 8,000 troops and over 400 pieces of light artillery.

Camp Milton was one of the strongest field fortifications built in Florida during the Civil War. The “earthworks” (pictured in the header) was conceived by Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, when he arrived at the camp following the Battle of Olustee. He planned a system of earthen fortifications that stretched for nearly three miles along the west side of McGirts Creek. Remnants of the original earthworks can still be seen along the creek via a boardwalk. Efforts are now underway to replicate these earthworks.

ACTIVITIES

Trails (paved and natural) and boardwalks make walking and biking very easy. Plenty of shade and benches offer ample opportunities to enjoy birding, nature photography and just relaxing. Camp Milton is located at the half-way point of the Jax-Baldwin Rail Trail, which is a 15-mile, paved multi-use path. Bring your bicycle, roller blades or horse (equestrian trail is adjacent to the paved trail) and enjoy tree-canopied ride along the trail.

A state-of-the art indoor amphitheater-style education/interpretative center features exhibits of Civil War relics, from buckles and bullets to both Confederate and Union uniforms. The education center is open for special programs and school field trips. There’s a “cracker house” that’s being restored. Once fully restored, it will be open for tours.

AMENITIES 

ADA accessible; bathrooms located at trail head; port-a-potties located in parking lot; plenty of parking.

Camp Milton Historic Preserve is managed by the City of Jacksonville, Parks & Recreation Department, Preservation Project.

ABOUT THE PARK

Castaway Island Preserve is truly a neighborhood “pocket park” that’s chocked full of easy access trails, scenic overlooks and a beautiful butterfly garden. 235 acres of preserved natural beauty, this site was purchased with the help of a Florida Communities Trust (FCT) grant. It’s a wonderful mix of upland scrub, which is important habitat for many birds and other wildlife with breathtaking views of the marsh and intracoastal waterway. It boasts 10 overlooks throughout the park providing incredible views. Recently, the butterfly garden at the entrance of the park was rehabilitated by the students at DePaul School of NE Florida, with the help of the Florida Master Gardeners, COJ and TTPF. It’s a hidden gem that is the perfect “getaway” from the rat race!

LOCATION

2885 San Pablo Road, Jacksonville, FL, between Atlantic Blvd. and Beach Blvd.  

HOURS

Sunrise to Sunset. No entrance fee.

NOTABLE  

Just 15 years ago the uplands area of what is now the Castaway Island Preserve was an abandoned trailer park — junk piled throughout the area surrounded by overgrown weeds and bushes. Developers eyed the area due to the uplands’ connection to the Intracoastal Waterway. The City of Jacksonville, through Mayor Delaney’s Preservation Project, bought three separate adjoining parcels and assembled them into this fabulous preserve, saving this “special place” for all to enjoy.

PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS 

During the abandoned trailer park days, I was living in nearby Tarpon Cove and would come home from work in time to go out alone in my trusty kayak to decompress and contemplate the contours of the universe,” says Warren Anderson.  “One day I noticed little survey flags covering the edges of the marsh next to the trailer park — my pulse quickened — oh, no,” I lamented, “Some developer is marking the area for condos — this will ruin everything!” “The next several days were agonizing as I made numerous calls to figure out what was happening to “my” sacred area.  When I finally learned the survey flags were not for condos but to mark the area for purchase by the City’s Preservation Project — so that the beautiful marsh area would forever be protected — I went from the depths of despair to ecstatic joy. Seeing first-hand how Mayor Delaney’s Preservation Project literally saved one of our “special places” caused me to volunteer to work to enhance the Project, and I have been an active volunteer for the cause ever since.

ACTIVITIES 

Hiking; biking; bird and wildlife watching; fishing; kayaking; canoeing; picnicking.

AMENITIES

There is ample parking, a restroom, picnic tables with grills at the nature center, trail kiosks, and floating dock for kayaks/canoes. A bike trail runs from the entrance connecting to a greater network of bike trails to the restrooms / nature center complex.  Pets allowed on a 6’ leash. Wheelchair accessible throughout the park.

ADVICE  

After checking the tide to make sure you’ll have plenty of water, come to Castaway in time to first walk through the fabulous marked trail (great for kids!) including the breathtaking overlooks out on the marsh.  Take time to read the kiosks that tell the history of the Preserve, the Preservation Project and the Intracoastal Waterway.  Then launch your kayak and paddle around the circular marsh waterways which are protected paddle areas right next to the Intracoastal. There are fun places to eat nearby so grab a bite after a full day of adventure. Truly this is one of the “special places” of Northeast Florida. Sunscreen, bug spray, and a hat is recommended. Remember binoculars for wildlife viewing and a camera to capture those memorable moments. To learn more, explore our site, www.timucuanparks.org, or www.jaxparks.com.

LOCATION

116 Cedar Point Road.

Traveling from Interstate 95, exit at the I-295 East Beltway (Exit 362A). Exit at Heckscher Drive (Exit 41), turn left. Continue on Heckscher Drive about one-fourth mile to the next traffic signal at New Berlin Road. Turn left at the traffic light and follow New Berlin Road to the intersection with Cedar Point Road (a triangle intersection). Turn right on Cedar Point Road and follow it, bearing to the right at Black Hammock Island, continue on Cedar Point Road to the end of the road. The Cedar Point boat ramp will be on your left.

HOURS

Sunrise to sunset.

DESCRIPTION

631 acres upland hammocks and saltwater marshes.

HISTORY

Like much of old Florida, Cedar Point, which lies on the south tip of Black Hammock Island, has seen a great deal of change through the past 200 years. Now preserved as a natural environment, the area was subjected to agriculture during the plantation period of the 19th century and management as a pine plantation during the 20th century. These human activities have left their mark on the land; 400-plus acres were acquired by the city of Jacksonville in 1996, 200-plus acres by the National Park Service in 1998.

ACTIVITIES

Nature trails for hikers, cyclists and equestrians, overlooks, picnic benches, canoe and kayak and boat launch, restrooms. Leashed dogs are welcome. The main trail is 2.1 miles (one way) and there are 4.9 miles of spur trails. All spur trails connect back to the main trail. A boat ramp provides access to some of the best fishing spots in the region. Bird-watchers come to Cedar Point to see more than 200 species of birds, including the beautiful painted bunting.

OBSERVATIONS

Park either at the end of Cedar Point Road or at the boat ramp (parking at ramp is minimal, take care not to tie up a space large enough for a vehicle and trailer). The trail is unmarked but starts behind the manatee sign near the ramp. This well-established trail will take you along some beautiful marshfront and merge with the marked trail for a refreshing hike through old Florida. Lots of shade here in the warm months and sea breezes in the afternoon. Wide, well-groomed trails through pine barrens and hardwood hammocks draped with Spanish moss. The views along the marsh will amaze you and have you wondering where everyone is. Always quiet and serene here, most times you can hike the trails without seeing another hiker.

NOTABLE

Cedar Point provides some of the best access to the tidal creeks and salt marshes in the Timucuan Preserve.

ADVICE

The upgraded boat ramp provides small boats access to the preserve’s tidal creeks. Power boats need to watch the tides as low tide can be mighty low. However, it’s a dream paddle for those with kayaks and canoes. The fishing is good, and the birding can be spectacular. Bug repellent is a must.

 

ABOUT THE PARK

Fort Caroline National Memorial sits high on the bluffs of the St. Johns River in the Arlington area of Jacksonville. As one of our area national parks, it takes visitors back to a time when the native Timucua lived, worked and played under the canopy of maritime oaks and fished in the St. Johns River and its tributaries.

LOCATION

12713 Fort Caroline Road, Jacksonville, FL 32225

HOURS

The park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. There is no admission fee and dogs are welcomed but must be on a six foot leash.

HISTORY

On May 1, 1562, the first French colonial expedition of exploration sailed into the mouth of the “River of May,” which most think is the St. Johns River. French Huguenot Captain Jean Ribault named the river, “le rivière de mai” (the River of May) in honor of the French arrival. The explorers disembarked their ship and for the first time two cultures—the French and the indigenous Timucua Indians—met and exchanged gifts. Ribault claimed the land for France, calling it “New France.” Just a few hundred yards from the fort, you can visit the Ribault Monument that Ribault erected commemorating his landing. The replica stone column bears the coats of arms of his French King Charles IX to claim Florida for France.

In 1564, French Huguenot Captain René Goulaine de Laudonnière returned to the site in vessels loaded with hopeful settlers, livestock, tools, seeds and munitions with the intent of establishing a colony for Charles IX, the 14-year-old king of France.

On June 30, 1564, another event of global significance occurred: 450 years ago, La Caroline (Fort Caroline) was established as the “first colony” in North America and the “first giving of thanks” occurred when the French settlers and the native Timucua shared a meal, reminiscent of the Thanksgiving feast we celebrate today.

To commemorate this historic event, on November 2nd, the National Park Service and its official friends group, the Timucuan Parks Foundation, hosted an afternoon “giving of thanks” dinner on the grounds inside the Fort. The event honored the 450th or Sesquiquadricentennial, of La Caroline in a collective spirit of thanks and friendship.

During the celebration, the purpose and memory of the La Caroline colony and our American and French heritages was once again merged and commemorated. Proceeds from the event benefited the Timucuan Parks Foundation’s efforts to preserve, protect and promote the preservation parks in Duval County.

ACTIVITIES

You can stroll on trails, which meander under oak hammocks and take you along the banks of the St. Johns River. The trails are well maintained and easy to traverse for visitors of all ages. You can also visit the fort by boat and tie up to the dock free of charge. Fort Caroline is also within walking distance to Spanish Pond, which has excellent birding, and the Theodore Roosevelt Area with numerous scenic trails, remnants of Willie Brown’s cabin, a viewing tower, and Indian shell middens.

Exhibits in the visitor’s center and inside the fort tell the story of the Timucua, the ecology and topography of the area and how life changed for the Timucua after the French colonial expedition arrived in 1562. There is a replica of a Timucua hut and an oven that is fired up for special occasions, baking breads and other native cuisine.

For more information about the park, please explore our site, www.timucuanparks.org, or visit www.nps.gov/TIMU.

ABOUT THE PARK

Huguenot Memorial Park is virtually surrounded by water, having access to the St. Johns River, Atlantic Ocean and Ft. George Inlet. The area consists of beautiful sand beaches with rising dunes that separates the ocean side from the inlet side. A long jetty extends along the St. Johns River as it flows in to the Atlantic Ocean which offer views of the Mayport Naval Station. The inlet rises and falls with tides running through Ft. George Inlet which exposes shoals offering great forging for shorebirds and wading birds.

LOCATION

Huguenot Park is located about one mile north of the St. Johns River Ferry on Highway A1A at 10980 Heckscher Dr. The park entrance will be on your right when headed north. There is parking located throughout Huguenot at designated areas and almost anywhere where beach driving is allowed. Phone is (904) 251-3335.

HOURS

8 am to 8 pm, April through October and 8 am to 6 pm, November through March. The park is open seven days per week, but can be temporarily closed due to full capacity, particularly on holidays.

ACTIVITIES

Huguenot offers a wide range of activities for everyone.  It is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail and visitors at this time of year have a unique opportunity to observe the nesting of Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls. This year was especially unique because the American Oystercatcher and Wilson’s Plover both nested at Huguenot. There are many options for water-related activities.  Swimming is available at most water access points and there are lifeguards at the beach and inlet.  All types of surfing, including kite and windsurfing, are popular.  You can fish in the ocean or in the river.

A variety of land activities include beach volleyball, a playground, Nature Center and some trails.  The Nature Center is a place for visitors to explore and discover many of the plants and animals they may find in the park. It has games, interactive displays, reference books and a helpful staff to show and explain all the items on display.  Concessions are available in the summer.  There are 71 primitive campsites located throughout the park, offering sites along the river and ocean.   Fire rings and grills are installed for campers and those wanting to picnic.  To make a camping reservation, call (904) 251-3335.

PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS

The nesting of the Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls is one of the most amazing sites you will ever see.  During a recent visit, the beach was absolutely full of these birds.  The adults hover nearby chicks, feeding them and also protecting by puffing out their wings and chirping continuously.  It is an unforgettable site and a must see.

NOTABLE

Huguenot Park is the only beach in Jacksonville where you can drive on the beach.  Remember to observe the speed limit and wear your seatbelt as the park is patrolled.  If you plan to drive on the beach, be mindful of the tides.  Some visitors have found their vehicles washed away after awakening from a restful nap or a walk on the beach.

ADVICE

Check out the jetties.  This offers a great vantage point to see where the ocean meets the St. Johns.  You can sit and watch the waves or see the enormous ships go up and down the river.  This is a wonderful year round park that offers something for everybody.  Get out and explore one of Jacksonville’s most unique parks.  For more information please explore our site, www.timucuanparks.org, or visit www.jaxparks.com.

ABOUT THE TRAIL

The Jacksonville Baldwin Rail Trail measures just over 14 miles and starts at the Imeson trail head, extending from Imeson Road in northwest Jacksonville to Baldwin, Florida. Also, the Rail Trail Buffer Preserve has 8.5 miles designed for unpaved day hiking and equestrian use.

LOCATION  

To reach the Imeson Road trail head from downtown Jacksonville, take I-10 west to Exit 356/I-295 North and travel north to Exit 9/Commonwealth Avenue.  Drive west on Commonwealth about 1 mile to Imeson and turn right.  The trailhead is marked and on the left.

To reach the Brandy Branch Road trailhead from Jacksonville, take I-10 west to Exit 343/US Highway 301 and travel north to US Highway 90.  Turn left, drive west about 2 miles.  Then turn right on Rout 121/Brandy Branch Road.  The trailhead is marked and on the right.

HOURS  

From sunrise to sunset, 365 days a year.

HISTORY

The City of Jacksonville purchased an unused east/west railroad corridor from CSX Transportation in 1992, in conjunction with the Florida Greenways and Trails program.  The Trail is part of a nation-wide, federally initiated “Rails to Trails” program designed to turn abandoned railroad lines into “linear parks.”

The Jacksonville-Baldwin Rails is bordered by the Rail Trail Buffer Preserve that was purchased in 1991 with a grant from the Florida Communities Trust, an agency that provides funding for local communities and eligible nonprofit organizations to acquire land for parks, greenways and open spaces.

ADVICE

The trail runs a distance of 14.5 miles. The Trail is 100 feet wide with a 12 foot asphalt thoroughfare that will accommodate walkers, runners, bicycles, baby strollers, skateboards, rollerblades and wheelchairs.  An equestrian trail runs parallel to the paved trail.

The trail passes through residential areas close to Imeson Road and as it continues west, it passes through a more rural area.  Eventually, the densely shaded Trail enters a pristine area of flatwoods, wetlands and hardwood uplands that support populations of hawks, buzzards, wild turkeys, white tailed deer, alligators, gopher tortoises, coral snakes and other woodland animals.  The Trail has relatively few street crossings which are rural and generally not busy. The equestrian trail also starts at the Imeson trailhead

ACTIVITIES  

Running, walking, biking, horseback riding, bird watching and picnicking on the tables at both trailheads and Camp Milton.

PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS

Either trailhead is a good place to start.  There are restrooms and benches at both trailheads and at Camp Milton and additional restrooms at the 5.7 mile and 12 mile points (measured from Imeson) on the Trail. Mile markers are posted along the trail and half mile markers are painted on the asphalt. There are plenty of restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations at either end of the trail.

NOTABLE  

Camp Milton Historic Preserve is located at the mid-point of the Trail and serves as a trailhead. Camp Milton was once home to the largest encampment of Confederate troops during the Civil War. The camp is located 5.7 miles from the Imeson trail head and is a short walk behind the restrooms from the trail head.

ADVICE

Get there early because the parking lots fill up quickly on the nicest days.  While the Trail is mostly shady, bring sunscreen and of course, bug repellent.

There is a shooting range close to the Imeson Road trailhead.  Sometimes gunshot sounds can be heard in the distance. Beware of the coral snake, which is venomous with wide black and red bands broken by narrow yellow rings. To learn more, explore our site, www.timucuanparks.org, or www.jaxparks.com.

ABOUT THE PARK

The Julington-Durbin Preserve is located on a peninsula where the Julington and Durbin Creeks meet. The preserve consists of a long, sandy ridge that grades into 2,031 acres of flatwoods and floodplain swamp that provide water quality and floodplain protection for both creeks as well as the St. Johns River. There are over 6 miles of trails to explore.

LOCATION 

Main entry is off Bartram Park Blvd. in Duval County, canoe and kayak launch is located off Racetrack Road in St. Johns County. For main entry access take Old St. Augustine Road to Bartram Park Blvd. – entrance is approximately a quarter mile on right.

HOURS

Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

HISTORY

This area is the land that separates both Julington and Durbin creeks, creating a peninsula that serves as a floodplain for the area. It is jointly owned with the state of Florida and St. Johns River Water Management District.

ACTIVITIES  

Nature trails, wildlife viewing, horseback riding, mountain biking, wooden bridges, picnic bench (at canoe launch), canoe and kayak launch, ample parking and trail map graphic.

PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS 

Julington-Durbin Preserve is an interesting park because of the diversity of the land. Upon first entering from the main entrance, its sandy flatwoods with pine and brush, and sandy soil. However, depending on where you are at on the trail, you’ll find swamp environments, creeks, and hammocks all with different vegetation and wildlife.

NOTABLE 

Julington-Durbin Preserve has over 9 miles of shoreline to both Julington and Durbin Creeks.

ADVICE

If you are canoeing or kayaking, the tides aren’t as important, as you will be launching into Durbin Creek, which is very deep. There are however stumps and vegetation debris that you may have to paddle over or around. If you plan on hiking, make sure to bring bug spray, if you pack a Thermocell as opposed to repellant sprays, you will definitely see more wildlife. There’s an abundance of deer, turkey and birds. The boat launch area off Racetrack Road is right past the cemetery and under the bridge – parking for this is done along the dirt road and along the embankment of the bridge. The main entrance off Bartram Park Blvd. is very unassuming, there’s a yellow metal gate and a one lane dirt road, its very easy to drive by and never know it’s there. Learn more by exploring our site, www.timucuanparks.org, or www.jaxparks.com.

ABOUT THE PARK

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is a JaxParks Preservation Park where you can literally “do it all!” Hiking, biking, boating, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, camping, bird watching, swimming, shelling, surfing, picnicking, disc golfing, geocaching  and some of the best off-road biking trails in Duval County.

The 450-acre park includes 1.5 miles of shoreline, an extensive ancient dune system and a mature coastal hammock with majestic live oaks (a rarity to find along Florida’s heavily-developed coastline).  Wildlife includes shorebirds, wading birds, alligators, and foxes. Sea turtle nesting is May through October.

LOCATION

500 Wonderwood Drive, Jacksonville, Florida, 32233

HOURS

8 am to 8 pm: April – October; 8 am to 6 pm: November-March.

Entrance fee: $1 per person from 8 am to 10 am; after 10 am, $3 per car til close. All entry fees are nonrefundable; cash only; re-entry fee is required unless you’re camping.

HISTORY

Named after Dr. Kathryn Abbey Hanna, prominent author, educator and historian, who had settled in Florida and served on the board of Parks and Historical Places, “Hanna” Park’s pristine beaches have played a proud role in Florida’s rich history as an inviting destination for relaxation and recreation.  In the 1880s, Jacksonville residents and tourists traveled the JM&P Railroad along what is now Wonderwood Drive to Burnside Beach.  In the 1900s, African-Americans working on the East Coast Railway, established Manhattan Beach, the state’s first African-American beach. Both Manhattan and Burnside beaches were popular sites with cottages, pavilion, restaurants, and an amusement park, and were located within the current boundaries of Hanna Park. Manhattan Beach flourished until the 1940s, when it was superseded as a day-trip destination by the larger American Beach to the north. In the late 1960s, the Bancroft family, donated five acres of land in honor of Dr. Kathryn Abbey Hanna, and in 1972, after the city of Jacksonville acquired additional acreage adjacent to the Bancoft donation, Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park was opened.

ACTIVITIES 

One of the park’s biggest attractions is the 1.5-mile white sandy beach, which is excellent for swimming, sunbathing, fishing, surfing and shelling. There are multiple access points, restrooms, and lifeguards during the summer.  “The Poles” at the north end of Hanna Park is a premier surfing spot in northeast Florida.

Hanna Park has over 20 miles of scenic trails for hiking and biking.  The separate off-road single-track mountain bike trails are well-known in the biking community and range from easy (wide corridors, flat, fun for the entire family to enjoy) to difficult (often steep, log crossings, for the hardcore mountain bikers). (The first time I went there to ride, the park ranger told me, “If the trail is named “Lily” or “Dogwood”, it’s easy.  If it’s named ‘Grunt” or ‘Misery’, it’s hard!”) There is biking paths on the roads that parallel the oceanfront.

The 60-acre lake near the center of the park, was a former borrow pit for road construction in the park. You can fish, kayak, canoe and rent paddle boats.  (Currently, the COJ website says that the lake watercraft rental concession is temporarily closed so you have to provide your own.) Amenities include lakeside picnic tables and grills, and trails surround the lake. An adjacent playground and a kids’ splash park for small children is open Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Hanna Park has other picnic areas, facilities for cookouts, reunions, retreats, and other group activities. Please note that reservations are required. Dolphin Plaza, a 2000-square-foot indoor facility on the oceanfront with capacity for 125 people, is a popular venue for family reunions, wedding receptions, and corporate outings.

Hanna Park has a quiet, family-friendly campground that includes 300 campsites in a wooded area easily accessible by paved roads. RV, tent and rustic cabin camping are available. Reservations for all sites can be made at https://v3.bookyoursite.com/kathryn/reservation and are first-come, first-served. Amenities include electric and water hookups and dump station, restroom facilities with showers and 24-hour security. There is also a separate “primitive” campground for larger groups (scouts, etc.) that can be reserved by calling the park office.

NOTABLE

The Great Birding and Wildlife Trail website notes a diversity of bird habitats at Hanna Park, including the freshwater lakes that support anhinga, wading birds and a variety of waterfowl; the hardwood hammock provide glimpses of migratory songbirds; shorebirds, terns and gulls are abundant on the beach; and the ocean where you may spy gannets, loons, sea ducks and grebes. In winter, you may see occasional sightings of the rarer pelagics, including both Parasitic and Pomarine Jaegers, and red-throated loons off the beaches. Hanna Park’s birding list is available at the entrance station.

The northern portion of Hanna Park is one of the most popular shelling areas in the county, particularly following  a “nor’easter” or other similar rough seas.  Look for Florida horse conchs, lettered olive shells, channeled whelks, augers, and other marine mollusks. (One website added, “Don’t overlook beached marsh grass which can yield a treasure trove of small crabbed specimens. One such tangle collected during 2000 yielded an amazing 3,952 shells representing 59 species.”)

Looking for something new and different to do?  Try your hand at Disc Golf. Last month, TPF volunteers helped JaxParks clear the disc golf “fairways” at Hanna Park. This is where it’s okay to be in the woods playing golf!

If “treasure hunting” is your thing, there are six geocaches hidden at Hanna Park. Check out www.geocaching.com website for more information.

You can also learn more about this park by exploring our site, www.timucuanparks.org, or www.jaxparks.com.

ABOUT THE PARK

Kingsley Plantation, managed by the National Park Service, is located in the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.

LOCATION

11676 Palmetto Ave.; exit I-95 at Heckscher Drive heading east. Travel past the Sisters Creek Marina, St. Johns River Ferry. Turn left at the sign for Kingsley Plantation. When the road forks, stay left on the unpaved road to Kingsley Plantation.

HOURS

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission is free.

HISTORY

In 1814, Zephaniah Kingsley moved to Fort George Island and what is known today as the Kingsley Plantation. He brought a wife and three children (a fourth would be born at Fort George). His wife, Anna Madgigine Jai, was from Senegal, West Africa, and was purchased by Kingsley as a slave. She actively participated in plantation management, acquiring her own land and slaves when freed by Kingsley in 1811.

With an enslaved work force of about 60, the Fort George plantation produced Sea Island cotton, citrus, sugar cane and corn. Kingsley continued to acquire property in north Florida and eventually owned more than 32,000 acres, including four major plantation complexes and more than 200 slaves.

The United States purchased Florida from Spain in 1821. The Spanish had relatively liberal policies regarding issues of race, but American territorial law brought many changes. At a time when many slaveholders feared slave rebellions, oppressive laws were enacted and conditions for Florida’s black population, free and enslaved, deteriorated. Kingsley was against the restrictive laws, arguing that more humane treatment would ensure peace and the perpetuation of slavery. In 1828, he published his opinions in “A Treatise on The Patriarchal, or Co-operative System of Society As It Exists in Some Governments … Under the Name of Slavery.”

To escape what Kingsley called a “spirit of intolerant prejudice,” Anna Jai and their sons moved to Haiti in 1837. There, Kingsley established a colony for his family and some of his former slaves. In 1839, Fort George Island was sold to his nephew, Kingsley Beatty Gibbs. Zephaniah Kingsley died in New York City in 1843.

ACTIVITIES

A free walking audio tour of the plantation transports you back into the day and lives of Anna and Zephaniah Kingsley and the plantation life that thrived here. The sounds and smells come alive through the stories told as you stroll throughout the historic buildings and grounds that include a working garden that bears the vegetables, fruits and indigenous, highly valued Sea Island cotton. You can also arrive by boat and tie up at the floating dock free of charge. Segway tours are also available by contacting Kayak Amelia (www.kayakamelia.com). Tram tours are available for special events that take you along the old golf course from Kingsley Plantation to the Ribault Club.

PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS

The Kingsley Plantation gives you an insight of a working plantation and the daily lives of those who lived there during the early 1800s. Many of the physical structures have been restored and give you glimpse of the past; tours of the main plantation house can be scheduled at the visitor’s center. The kitchen house, barn and slave quarters are always open during park hours. On this sea island plantation you will learn about the cash crops grown and commodities produced all requiring different tasks. The grounds tour of the plantation has several informative displays as well as pamphlets describing the Florida Plantation-Era and all of the people who played a part in the history of Kingsley Plantation.

NOTABLE

There are restrooms and a bookstore/gift shop west of the Main House along the Fort George River, where you can purchase the “Special Places” coffee table book.

ADVICE

There are several planned activities and re-enactments throughout the year; explore our website, www.timucuanparks.org, or www.nps.gov/TIMU for upcoming events.

LOCATION

12802 Pumpkin Hill Road. From off I-95 or 295, head east on Heckscher Drive. Turn north on New Berlin Road, then east on Cedar Point Drive and north on Pumpkin Hill Road. Trailhead parking is approximately one mile on the left. Alternatively, if traveling on I-295, watch for the signs to exit north on Alta Drive, then east on New Berlin, then east on Cedar Point Drive and north on Pumpkin Hill Road.

HOURS

8 a.m. to sundown, 365 days per year.

DESCRIPTION

Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park is best described as pine flatwoods nestled within undisturbed tidal creeks. The park preserves nearly 4,000 acres of upland habitat bordering tidal marshlands along the St. Johns River, thus protecting one of the largest contiguous areas of coastal uplands remaining in Duval County. The preserve contains 21 distinct natural communities including scrubby flatwoods, cypress dome, sandhills, maritime hammock, wet flatwoods and estuarine tidal marsh

HISTORY

Purchased by the state of Florida and the St. Johns River Water Management District in 1994, it began being managed by the Florida Park Service in 2003. Most of the land was previously in silviculture, and the Visitor Center has preserved examples of the tools used in the turpentine business on site, important in this region in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

ACTIVITIES

Equestrians, hikers and off-road bicyclists can explore five miles of multiuse trails that wind through the park’s many different natural communities. The park has a canoe/kayak launch accessible by a 500-foot portage to the marshes. Pets are allowed but must be leashed.

OBSERVATIONS

Pumpkin Hill is a great place to learn geocaching, a modern GPS-enabled scavenger hunt. Over 42 caches are hidden at the park, 14 directly adjacent to the trails.

NOTABLE

East of Jacksonville’s skyscrapers and west of the beaches, this state park protects one of the largest contiguous areas of coastal uplands remaining in Duval County. The uplands protect the water quality of the Nassau and St. Johns rivers, ensuring the survival of aquatic plants and animals, and providing an important refuge for birds. Wildlife is abundant and ranges from the threatened American alligator to the endangered wood stork.

ADVICE

If you plan to hike, bring plenty of water. The best time to visit the park is September through April when the flying insects are less of a nuisance.

ABOUT THE PARK

The Sal Tayor Preserve is 406 acres of primarily pine plantation, with areas of isolated wetlands and beautiful bottom-lands around Sal Taylor Creek. There are approximately four miles of trails within the park, some being fairly wide former forest roads and other spur trails being narrower walking paths. The trails are open to equestrian use and are stable enough for trail running and trail biking. There are horse tie-ups and parking for horse trailers.  The trails also connect to the Cecil Field Conservation Corridor trails, which are former forest roads.

Sal Taylor is usually quiet and is not heavily used.  There is good wildlife viewing (deer, turkey, gopher tortoises) and hikers also can see wildflowers and carnivorous plants.  At least one piebald deer (white with brown patches) has been seen using these woods.

HISTORY

The City of Jacksonville purchased the Sal Tayor Creek Preserve in 2001, with the help of a Florida Communities Trust grant and the Trust for Public Lands.  The Preserve had been known as the “Nathan Hale Property,” but was renamed for the creek system which runs through it. Sal Taylor Creek ultimately flows to Black Creek and then to the St. Johns River.

LOCATION

Sal Taylor Creek Preserve is located on Nathan Hale Road, which extends south from Normandy Boulevard just west of Cecil Commerce Center and the Jacksonville Equestrian Center. To reach the trail head, drive south from Normandy Boulevard on Nathan Hale Road for just under a mile, and the trail head and unpaved parking area are on the left.

HOURS

Sunrise to sunset, 365 days a year. No admission fee.

ACTIVITIES 

Activities at the Sal Taylor Creek Preserve include hiking, horseback riding, biking, and wildlife observation.  Pets are allowed, on leashes.  Because the trails connect to the Cecil Field Conservation Corridor, the Preserve trails can be part of a longer walk, run, or ride.

PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS

The Main trail runs about two miles, one way, from the trail head to the bottom-lands of Sal Taylor Creek.  The creek definitely is the most scenic part of the Preserve and should be a destination for any hike.  The creek runs clear and has a sandy bottom.

The spur trails (a total of 2.1 miles) also are worthwhile, sometimes extending in or around isolated wetlands.

Most of the Preserve boundaries are along other conservation lands which are part of the Cecil Field Conservation Corridor, but the southwest boundary of the Preserve is shared with a rural subdivision.

ADVICE

Early mornings are the best time at Sal Taylor Creek Preserve.  You’ll enjoy quiet and solitude and, at that hour, almost certainly some deer. The trails are in excellent condition and make a great route for walking a dog, bike riding, or horseback riding. Keep an eye out for the piebald deer!

If it’s been raining or you go during the rainy season, be mindful of water/mud covered roads and always bring bug spray, water and your camera!

ABOUT THE PARKS

Many park enthusiasts consider the Talbot Island State Parks the premier park experience in Northeast Florida; a rare undeveloped barrier island on the edge of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic National Preserve. Our land’s ancestors, Native American, French, Spanish and British, all knew this area well.

Located on one of Northeast Florida’s unique sea islands, Big Talbot Island State Park is primarily a natural preserve providing a premier location for nature study, bird-watching, and photography. Launch a boat from the north end of the island to fish and tour the salt marsh or rent a kayak and take a guided paddle tour.

LOCATION

Approximately 17 miles northeast of downtown Jacksonville, the parks are located on A1A inside Jacksonville’s city limits and continue right up to the border of Nassau County, marked by the fabulous George Crady fishing bridge. Addresses to specific parks found below.

HOURS

Little Island State Park

12157 Heckscher Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32226. Open from 8:00 am until sundown, all year round. $5.00 per vehicle. Limit 2 to 8 people per vehicle. $4.00 fee for Single Occupant Vehicles. $2.00 fee for pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, and passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.

Camping fee of $24.00 per night, plus tax. Includes water and electricity. Florida residents who are 65 years of age or older or who hold a social security disability award certificate or a 100 percent disability award certificate from the Federal Government are permitted to receive a 50 percent discount on current base campsite fees.

Big Talbot State Park

State Road A1A North, Jacksonville, FL 32226. Open from 8:00 am until sundown, all year round. $2.00 per person to access the George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier. $3.00 entrance fee per vehicle to access the Bluffs picnic area. $4.00 fee to access the boat launch. Please use the honor box to pay fees. Correct change is required. Limit 8 people per vehicle.

 

HISTORY

Archaeologists and historians tell us Native Americans lived here as early as 4000 BC, and in the hundreds of years prior to arrival by Europeans in the 1560s research reveals the Native Americans led an active, sophisticated-trade life in this area. The French arrived in 1562 at nearby Ft. Caroline and the Spanish soon followed.  Native Americans and Spanish Franciscan friars developed relationships in this area.    English loyalists escaped American fervor during the revolution, staying on the islands.  In 1734 James Ogelthorpe gave the parks its name after Charles Baron Talbot, the Lord High Chancellor of England.

ACTIVITIES

Photography opportunities abound — wildlife is everywhere, there is great fishing at both the parks, even a boat ramp at Big Talbot Island, and local surfers love the north end of Little Talbot which contains 5 miles of pristine beach unadorned by houses or structures.  There is a short nature walking loop and a wonderful 4 mile trail on Little Talbot.  If you want to camp on Little Talbot call the ranger station well ahead of time — it is one of our most popular camping areas.

PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS 

The Talbot Islands are surrounded by natural beauty and exciting wildlife. Explore the diverse island habitats by hiking Blackrock Trail to the shoreline or Big Pine Trail to the marsh. Prepare your senses for the beauty that these islands have to offer.

NOTABLE

At least one peak visual experience awaits you at the Talbot Islands. Park in the Big Talbot lot on the east side of A1A, just before getting to the bridge going into Nassau County. Walk out to the bluffs in the observation area and take in the indescribable beauty of Nassau Sound. Below the bluffs on the beach are old bleached out driftwood trees which accumulate due to natural erosion fondly called “bone yard beach” by the locals. Standing on the bluff at Big Talbot Island looking out over Nassau Sound is a reminder that we are connected to nature.

ADVICE

To rent a kayak and take a guided paddle tour with Kayak Amelia, call (888) 30-KAYAK (305-2925). Kayak tours require advanced reservation. For more information on the Talbot Island State Parks, explore our site, www.timucuanparks.org, or visit www.floridastateparks.org.

ABOUT THE PARK

Thomas Creek Preserve, located in upper northwestern Jacksonville, is a special place that shows off 1,450 acres of Old Florida landscape, from a slow moving creek and floodplain marsh to woods dense with canopies under expansive skies. Thomas Creek itself marks the border of Duval and Nassau counties in this area and is the largest tributary of the Nassau River. This area is also known for a Revolutionary encounter more than two hundred years ago: the southernmost battle of the American Revolutionary War, and the only one fought in present-day Duval County, took place at Thomas Creek in May 1777 between British Army forces and Georgia cavalry militia.

The preserve, just 30 minutes from downtown by car, offers a quiet getaway with little motorized traffic on the creek. It’s an ideal place for bird watching, picnicking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and boating. Wildlife to encounter includes alligators, woodpeckers and wading birds, and fishing enthusiasts can try for pan fish and catfish.

LOCATION

17198 Ethel Road, Jacksonville, Florida, 32218

HOURS

Sunrise to sunset. Entrance fee: None.

AMENITIES

Boat ramp (no boats over 17 ft), dock, fishing pier, canoe/kayak launch, a covered picnic area, grills, restrooms, and boat trailer and car parking. Pets are allowed on leash.

Thomas Creek Preserve is managed by the City of Jacksonville, Parks & Recreation Department, Preservation Project.

Photos: www.willdickey.com

 Park Name

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 Fort Caroline National Memorial

Fort Caroline National Memorial

 The Ribault Club

The Ribault Club

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 Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail

Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail

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Park Name