the river flows through it

photo: Joseph Tremain
photo: Joseph Tremain
photo: Joseph Tremain
photo: Joseph Tremain

by Kelly Savage
When we think about Downtown, it is hard to picture it without the mighty St. Johns River. The river is an indelible part of the city’s landscape and has shaped our town since people settled here. Oh, how we have changed it though. If you take a boat trip through downtown, it is hard to picture it as it once was. When our city was known as Cowford, the river was only about 10-12 feet deep! Now, the depth is about 60 feet under the Main Street Bridge. We have bulkheaded downtown, run stormwater pipes to the river, and built our concrete city on top of once expansive wetlands.
Before the great fire of 1901 that moved the populous to create our large suburbs, our downtown was bustling with commerce. It was the prosperous era of steamboats, and the river was our highway. Vessels would carry passengers and cargo to Palatka, Sanford and tourist destinations like Silver Springs. The history of our city and our river runs deep and is truly an adventure in discovery meant to be shared.
Other cities with rivers running through them have made the river the highlight of their downtown landscape and a must-stop for visitors and tourists. We are heading in the same direction with a wonderful Northbank Riverwalk that extends from the Jacksonville Landing to the Riverside Arts Market location under the Fuller Warren Bridge and a water taxi service that transports travelers across the river, often while being followed by bottlenosed dolphins! So the next time you have visitors, head downtown and see the St. Johns river in a new light!

River Events

May 4 Love UR Mother Fashion Show
ArtWalk, Runway in front of MOCA
Art Walk: 5 pm-9 pm
Fashion Show: 6:30-8 pm
Enjoy a free, unique fashion show as local models and celebrities strut the catwalk, modeling outfits by local designers that are constructed of different kinds of recycled materials. We will have some of our River Friendly rain barrels on display as well. Come out for an evening of fashion and fun that celebrates our river and our environment.

May 7 Create a River Friendly Yard Presentation
Jacksonville Pubic Library, Main Branch, 11 am-noon
Always wanted to know what you could do in your very own yard that can help the St. Johns River? Attend this FREE workshop on creating a river friendly yard!

May 7 Mother’s Day Boat Trip
10 am-noon
Celebrate mom and the St. Johns River! Take her on a guided boat trip up the St. Johns & Ortega Rivers where you will see the city and river like never before! All moms leave with a gift!
Reservations required. 256-7613 or [email protected]

May 14 PB&J Benefit, Picnic on the River
Underbelly, 11 am-3 pm
Bring a blanket, a hula hoop, a musical instrument, a frisbee, or anything else to make a day in the park…”a day in the park!” Food will be provided by local, independently owned businesses. Lunches will be served according to a sliding scale from $8-$15. We ask that you give what you can. Proceeds from the picnic go directly to fund the incredibly important work of St. Johns Riverkeeper.

May 14 Ripples on the River
Jacksonville University, 4-6 pm
This is an annual event held by JU’s MSRI and St. Johns Riverkeeper to raise awareness about the St. Johns River and the work of Riverkeeper and the MSRI to protect it. There will be food, a touch tank for kids, and boat rides on the S.S. Marine Taxi for a small donation.

May 18 River Friendly Cleaners
Willowbranch Library, 7-8 pm
Help protect our waterways and wildlife by reducing the amount of toxic chemicals put in our water. Making your own cleaners saves money and the river, and they smell fabulous! Join us for a workshop where you will make your own cleaners to take home with you! We will be making floor cleaner, a soft scrub all purpose, counter all-purpose cleaner, and window cleaner. Pre-registration is required, as space and materials are limited. To register, contact Kelly Savage, 904.256.7613 or [email protected]. Bring your own clean containers. We suggest spray bottles and containers with screw-on tops and openings wide enough to scoop out of with your hand. Sign up to take home all four ($10) or just two ($5) cleaners!