by KELLY SAVAGE
Now that the shininess of the holidays and the new year have worn off, it is a good time to truly make some clear choices about how to make 2012 a better year for yourself and your community. I implore you to include the river in those thoughts. Everyday decisions are made by each and every one of us that affect our beloved river. She needs our help. One of the easiest things you can do is get to know your river. Ask yourself, when was the last time you sat near it and just basked in the sun’s reflection on its surface? I guarantee you will fall in love instantly!
So let me introduce you to the greatest river in the world that we are blessed enough to have in our backyards. Here are five things you should know about the river.
1. Southern Marshy Beginnings. The St. Johns River begins as a marsh in Fellsmere, FL, close to Vero Beach, and then is fed by ancient sea water bubbling up from springs and lakes.
2. Is it the only river besides the Nile that flows south to north? It flows north, which is unique, but not as unique as you might think. There are quite a few rivers that flow north; however, it is one of the largest in this country behind the Bighorn River in Wyoming and the Red River in North Dakota.
3. Brackish. Yes, that awesome word describes the type of water sloshing around in our river. It is neither straight freshwater nor straight seawater, but somewhere in the middle. There are areas that are mostly fresh, like where it begins for example. There are also areas where it is mostly salty, like at the mouth near Mayport. But, overall, it is somewhere in between.
4. Diversity. Since our river has salt and fresh water, it is home to species of both. There are approximately 183 species of fish, countless bird species, snails, alligators, sharks, dolphins and manatees. The list goes on and on. A day on the St. Johns can offer encounters with dolphins, manatees and the second-largest breeding population of American bald eagles!
5. Rich History. Native Americans (Timucuan and Seminole), Spanish, French and English all called the river home at some point. There are wonderful parks and museums that document all of them. My favorite one is the Kingsley Plantation. Zephaniah Kingsley was a maritime merchant, shipbuilder, and slave owner who married an African princess, Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley, and prided himself on his egalitarian treatment of his slaves. His plantation is still intact, along with the surrounding garden and slave quarters. A must-see in Northeast Florida!