on the river

by kelly savage
October is a great month to go camping. The heat and humidity finally starts to taper off, but it’s still warm enough to enjoy being on the water, and the nights are cool and refreshing.
We are lucky enough to live in a haven of diverse campgrounds that offer all kinds of activities along with river access. Follow my easy, four-step process to an affordable but rockin’ weekend on our St. Johns River!
Local Camping 101
STEP 1 Pick a park & reserve a campsite or cabin.
STEP 2: Supply list This is the most important part of camping! There are many websites that offer lists you can print off. My friends and I pass along a spreadsheet via email to check who is bringing what. Find whatever works for you, but make sure to write an extensive list of anything and everything you might need.
– Outdoor shelter: tent, sleeping bag, air mattress (for those of us who can’t sleep on the ground anymore), pillow, etc. (Note: Cabins are usually very rustic, so you will need to bring all of your linens and supplies.)
– Cooking supplies: propane stove/firewood/charcoal, pans, non-perishable food in a sealed container, and don’t forget the s’mores!
– Toiletries: shower stuff, etc.
– Misc: flashlights, batteries, games, first aid kit

STEP 3: Activities Our parks often offer a variety of activities, such as kayaking or canoeing, hiking, swimming, snorkeling, fishing, boating, biking, nature programs and games. I always have a deck of UNO with me! Take advantage of this time to unplug and enjoy this time with the people you love!

STEP 4 Load up and head out!

Camp Chowenwaw
1517 Ball Rd. Green Cove Springs, 32043
(904) 529-8058, claycountygov.com
Fees: Tent camping is around $10. They also have cabins & treehouses. Yes, you read that right. The treehouses are $18 and up per person and are awesome!
Amenities: New fishing pier, paddle launch, hiking trails, swimming
Some of you may remember this 150-acre site on Black Creek as a Girl Scout camp. Clay County purchased the camp a few years ago and now it is a park that is open to the public. Black Creek is absolutely beautiful. I always feel like I am in a magical place where I can just totally relax and escape from my daily routines. Camp Chow is by far one of my favorite camping spots and it’s close to home!

Hontoon Island State Park
2309 River Ridge Rd. Deland, 32720
(386) 736-5309
Fees: Tent Camping is $18 per night, cabin rental is $30 per night for 4 people, $35 for 6 people.
Amenities: biking, hiking, boating, paddling, fishing, museum, ferry (daily from 8 am to one hour before sunset)
Accessible only by a small ferry or by boat, camping here is a true retreat. Hontoon Island is one of the most historic sites along the river. Once inhabited by the Timucuan Owl Clan (and possibly other clans), the park has two shell mounds as well as replicas of Native American totem poles that were discovered nearby! They are the only totems ever discovered on the eastern shore. This is a special place indeed.

About Shannon Blankinship

Shannon Blankinship is the Outreach Director for St. Johns Riverkeeper and contributes regularly via the “On The River” column building awareness for the many issues that impact the St. Johns River. Shannon received her B.S. from Purdue University in Natural Resources Economics and Policy and her J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville. She is currently an elected official in Duval County serving on the Soil and Water Conservation District. She is a board member for the local nonprofit The Girls Gone Green and regularly contributes articles affecting animals and health. She is a Springfield resident and works to promote all things great in the urban core neighborhoods.