May042014

Jacksonville and the St. Johns River

Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront is a good location for visiting the largest city by land area in the USA. An hour walking the riverwalk of the St. Johns River was an opportunity to pick up history of the First Coast region. This area is a major transportation hub of Florida.

Jax bridge-1

St. Johns River view from Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront.

St. Johns River is 310 miles in length and one of the few rivers in the USA to flow north. The river provided early access to the interior forests of northern Florida and the timber industry was active here over two hundred years ago. Like many places in the U.S., once the Americans seized control of the land in the early 1800s, clear cutting forests got out of control.

 

More relevant to travel and tourism is learning the St. Johns River provided access to Florida winter resort havens following the Civil War and into the 1890s. During this time period there were more luxury steamer boats navigating the St. Johns than on the Mississippi River.

Jacksonville was known as the ‘Winter City in Summerland’ and attracted New Englanders with its desirable climate.

Crowne Plaza Jacksonville

Crowne Plaza Jacksonville on the south side of the St. Johns River from the Hyatt.

Walking along the riverfront I met a woman who told me she saw four dolphins leaping out of the St. Johns River yesterday. A sign on the riverfront says the upper St. Johns River at Blue Spring State Park is one of only two locations where the manatee population is increasing in Florida. Apparently there are only about 2,500 manatees remaining in the wild. Jacksonville is the lower portion of the St. Johns River.

The farther west I walked along the riverfront, the more homeless I saw occupying the benches. Nobody said a word to me.

Then I got a clue as to why all the silence for this camera-toting tourist.

No Panhandling

No Panhandling in Jacksonville.

The bridge across the St. Johns River was beautiful in blue light last night.

St Johns night

St. Johns River in Jacksonville at night.

This morning I was walking along the riverfront by the blue bridge as the center section started rising. I looked up and down the river for a big container barge like I commonly see in San Francisco Bay.

Rising bridge

Sailboat with a tall mast on the St. Johns River heading out to sea.

Time to get my motor running and drive out of Jacksonville, Florida.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. I’m debating moving to Jax for work from DC. I visited a few weeks ago and I was pleasantly surprised. Their downtown is nice and has some interesting neighborhoods. Also JAX Beach is very nice. Best part is how cheap the city is.

  2. Glad that you got to stay at the Hyatt. The blue drawbridge is the Main Street Bridge and the other bridge in the background is the Acosta Bridge.

    I hope that you enjoy your trip!

  3. Lived in Jax for over 15 years. Recently as 2012 in Atlantic Beach. Don’t really miss much except for the slowness and nice breeze of Atlantic Beach during autumn. I live in China now and prefer the variety here. To me Jax just had a beach and long drives in bad traffic to go anywhere. There really isn’t a lot to do other than beaches. It has developed very slowly since I’ve lived there in the early 80’s. I couldn’t wait to get out during the mid 90’s. Came back to care for family in early 2005. Jax is a slow and lonely town for those under 35 yrs and single. But probably not bad for a couple. Would I move back? Not to jax, Maybe to Atlantic Beach but only for 3 months of the year. As far as prices mentioned above. It’s actually pretty expensive to buy food there recently. But land is cheap comparatively speaking.

  4. Having moved to Jax 6 months ago, I would have to agree with chris’s comments above – it is a slow & lonely town for those who are single. My friend is bored out of his mind most of the time. However, if you are in a couple, then yes, you can spend endless hours finding stuff to do around Florida.

    I find that you can really do a lot of things in Jax by researching, mostly outdoorsy stuff & state parks, but what I loved the most is the zoo & Catty Shack. Drop by when you have the time 🙂

  5. Today being Sunday and a gorgeous day made me realize that going to the beach was probably going to mean incredible traffic.

    I ended up driving to St. Augustine and loved my four hours there visiting Casa Monica (Marriott Autograph Collection), Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (the Spanish fortress from 1500s) and Flagler College which was a 19th century luxury hotel.

    From St. Augustine I traveled the back roads along the St. Johns River on US Route 17 all the way to Darien, Georgia, using the interstate only to get through Jacksonville.

    I went to St. Simons Island Georgia and photographed gorgeous oaks at Christ Episcopal Church. Wanted to see Fort Frederica, but arrived 2.5 hours after closing.

    Could not have had a more gorgeous weather day. Cloudless blue skies. Stopped in a few places and talked to fishermen.

    Don’t even think I got one mosquito bite. Although the sun in St. Augustine was pretty intense and even lathered in sunscreen I feel a bit baked.

    Day one of this road trip was all I could hope for. I had no idea there were so many forests in the region.

    Now I can see why the major timber company is called Georgia Pacific.

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