by SHANNON BLANKINSHIP
While the funding debate casts doubt on the future of the St. Johns River Ferry, there is another story to be told about this Jacksonville landmark. The St. Johns River Ferry connects the Fort George Island Marina to Mayport Village. The Ferry service operates entirely within the Timucuan Preserve of Jacksonville, an area established to protect the biological integrity of the river in one of its most critical spawning and breeding corridors.
Timucuan Preserve connects the St. Johns River to the Atlantic Ocean. It protects environmentally sensitive wetlands surrounding the mouth of the river as well as some of the most historic sites along the river. Kingsley Plantation is preserved within walking distance of the Ferry drop-off and is the oldest plantation in Florida. In 1562, Jean Ribault arrived at the mouth of the river and erected a monument at Fort Caroline, now known for its swamps, beautiful marshes and scenic views. Turn right when you exit the Ferry and continue north to visit the Talbot Island State Parks. Hike Blackrock Trail through natural Florida until you reach the shoreline at Big Talbot Island; kayak through brackish water with Kayak Amelia outfitters; tailgate at Huguenot Memorial Park; go saltwater fishing till dusk.
The St. Johns River Ferry connects more than daily commuters; it connects people to the place where the St. Johns River meets the ocean. The river’s terminus is imbued with history and nature, and the Ferry is a part of this history. While funding procurement efforts to keep the Ferry in operation continue, the outcry for preservation of this Jacksonville landmark shows that even though area tourists may not travel through Timucuan Preserve as often as is needed, the Ferry serves a greater purpose- one it should continue to serve.
St. Johns River Ferry
M-F: On the hour and half hour 6 am-7 pm; Sat & Sun: 7 am-8:30 pm
Rates: Pedestrian/Bicycle $1; Motorcycle $3; two-axle vehicle $5
St. Johns Riverkeeper Boat Cruise
April 7, 10 am-12 pm
Cruise down the St. Johns River and learn about the history, ecology and issues affecting this valuable resource. Boat departs from Friendship Fountain and enters the Ortega River. Suggested donation: $20 for adults and $5 for kids
Reservations required; contact [email protected] or 256-7613
Kayak Amelia Guided Kayak Tour
May 12, 9 am-12 pm
If you have yet to experience a guided trip through the Timucuan Preserve, now is your chance! The tour starts with brief instruction, then a one-hour paddle. After a quick break and snack on a sandbar, the tour will finish up with another hour of paddling.
$60 per person; all proceeds benefit the St. Johns Riverkeeper.
Reservations required; visit www.kayakamelia.com and contact 251-0016