photo: Will Dickey

December Park of the month – Theodore Roosevelt Area



Visitors to the Theodore Roosevelt Area find themselves amid 600 acres of hardwood forest, wetlands, and scrub vegetation rich in cultural history. There are over five miles of trails through mature woodlands and along the St. Johns River. Crosscut by Hammock Creek and adjacent to Spanish Pond and Fort Caroline, the park features numerous Indian shell middens lining the banks of the St. Johns River which provide a high bluff view of the river. In addition, the observation tower at Round Marsh gives visitors a 360-degree view.

TRA Willie Brown signHistory: This land, once inhabited thousands of years ago by the native Timucuan, was eventually owned by William “Willie” Henry Browne III, who spent his whole life there. Willie donated his property to The Nature Conservancy for preservation (naming it after President Theodore Roosevelt, whom he much admired) and in 1990, it became a part of the National Park Service. Willie once said: “People have to work in the cities, they can’t live in the woods anymore. But they ought to have a place in the woods they can go to.” The foundations of his cabin stand as a testament to the gift he gave to future visitors.

Activities: Hiking, biking (limited), birding, picnicking, fishing, pets welcome on a leash.

What to Do: Hiking the Willie Browne Trail (blue markings) through a beautiful mature woodlands taking the left fork past the cemetery to Willie Browne’s cabin is a favorite hike. The Spanish Pond Trail (red markings) connects to the Timucuan Trail (green markings) and take you down to the waterfront. Head east along the bluffs for a beautiful elevated view of the St. Johns River through extensive Indian middens. Continue on the trail (black marker) until you get to the end at the Round Marsh observation tower. Enjoy a 360-degree marsh view and the variety of birds nesting there. Return on the left loop trail back to Willie Browne’s cabin to the parking area. This hike is between 2 and 2.5 miles in length and takes about 1.5 to 2 hours.

Advice: Bring binoculars, camera, water, insect repellent, and sun screen. Wear sturdy shoes for walking on oyster shells and exposed roots. Bikes limited to Willie Browne trail only-look out for some patches of sand. Pets are welcome on a six-foot leash.

Address: 13165 Mt. Pleasant Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32225. Located about 14 miles east of downtown Jacksonville in the east Arlington area. Twelve car parking area plus two handicap spaces.

Hours: Park is open from sunrise to sunset. Restroom facilities open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Park Office: 904-641-7155.

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