BY SHANNON BLANKINSHIP, Outreach Director, St. Johns Riverkeeper
Take me to the river
There are few things better for most pups than a get-a-way with their humans to a dog-friendly water park! Not all dogs love swimming. For those that do, finding a great doggie swim spot can become your pup’s favorite place to go. Even if your dog (or you) don’t want to get completely wet, finding a great place to hike along the water means cooler temperatures and scenic vistas for each of you. Here are some great places along the St. Johns River that you and your best friend will both enjoy:
Reddie Point Preserve
Known most as a great fishing spot and birding haven, Reddie Point Preserve is located in Arlington where the St. Johns River makes the massive shift from its northbound trajectory of 300 miles to heading east towards the Atlantic Ocean. When you arrive at Reddie Point, feel free to take your pup on any of the short, well-maintained trails that weave through more than 100 acres of preserve. For water access, the best spot it to head towards the primitive kayak launch. Just through the tree-lined banks of the river is a vast shoreline dominated by fiddler crabs and a sandy beach just large enough for a fold up chair. Pack some water, sunscreen and sunglasses and enjoy a quiet riverfront retreat with the Jacksonville skyline in the distance.
Theodore Roosevelt Area
Located near Fort Caroline, the Theodore Roosevelt Area is a 600-acre area filled with hardwood forest, wetlands, and scrub vegetation lining the St. Johns River. The trails here are more complex, allowing you and your pup to choose from a 2 or 3 mile round trip to more than 10 miles. Make your way out to the observation deck for a great panoramic view of the surrounding marsh. The trails here are both narrow and wide, under canopy and open air. Experience it all. Bring water and keep your pup on a leash to protect native species.
There are several points to access the St. Johns River in Mayport. Driving along A1A, find a parking area and enjoy! Check out Helen Cooper Floyd Park to allow your pup water access for a quick dip. Mayport is the last stretch of St. Johns before reaching the ocean, so the air is salty and the water is tidal. Certain times of day will have much more beach than others. During high tide, watch out for fishing gear left behind and hidden oyster shells that can be sharp. This area is great for pups that want to play but won’t get into too much trouble exploring far out of your sight.
While dogs and their owners both love to play near water, remember you still need to clean up after your pet. We talk about failing septic tanks, fecal coliform and bacteria warnings throughout the state of Florida impacting our water and forcing health advisories. Dog waste is no exception, and having direct contact with the water means no treatment or filtration will occur. Keep our waterways clean and be a responsible pet owner. If you are already doing the important work of finding the perfect place for a quick doggie retreat, make sure to bring water and a travel bowl, as well as pet waste bags. Enjoy the access and beauty of north Florida with your companion soon!