Day 13, Sunday, April 3
By Shannon Blankinship, St. Johns Riverkeeper Outreach Director
Day 13 began with a beautiful sunrise overlooking the shoreline where the St. Johns River meets the ocean. The Tour Team camped with family, friends and volunteers along the river at Huguenot Memorial Park, enjoying the final morning before jumping into kayaks.
Outfitter Kayak Amelia led a five-mile paddle through the winding salt marsh and estuary of the Timucuan Preserve, pointing out the pelicans, shorebirds, dolphins and other wildlife that shared the water with us. The salty air, oyster beds and gulls flying overhead made it clear that we had reached the end of our river.
Our Hobie Mirage kayaks provided by Black Creek Outfitters glided through the water, as we explored the marsh and reflected on the long river journey that was coming to an end.
After paddling the preserve, the Tour Team headed to our final destination for lunch and a celebratory meet-and-greet at the Sandollar Restaurant overlooking the river next to the St. Johns River Ferry landing. This location is bustling with activity on the river, from commercial fisherman to commuters and recreational boaters. There is no better spot to kick back and relax, while taking notice of the many ways that people utilize and enjoy the St. Johns.
At our finale event, we invited Jim McCarthy, executive director of North Florida Land Trust, to be a part of the conversation about the connection between healthy waterways and conservation lands. Jim discussed the North Florida Land Trust’s significant land holdings in the Timucuan Preserve and the importance of managing this land in conservation because of its ecological benefits to the estuary system. The St. Johns Riverkeeper is excited about the partnership with North Florida Land Trust and the opportunities to work together to protect the lands and waters of the St. Johns River watershed.
Over the course of the tour, we witnessed amazing beauty, met passionate people and raised tremendous awareness of the importance of the St. Johns and the significant impacts that threaten her future. We were enlightened of the rich history and culture, ecological diversity and the vastness of the river and its watershed. We also cultivated new relationships and partnerships that will strengthen our collective efforts to protect our state’s only American Heritage River.
While this Tour has come to an end, the work has just begun; however, we are more energized and optimistic than ever that we can save the St. Johns!
This is the 13th and final part of an ongoing series. Florida NewsLine is pleased to bring you a daily travelogue, along with photos and videos, submitted to us by Shannon Blankinship, St. Johns Riverkeeper outreach director.
Beginning March 22 and continuing for 13 days, St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman and a team of river advocates journeyed the 310-mile length of the St. Johns River, from the headwaters at Fort Drum to the river’s mouth at the fishing village of Mayport on the Atlantic Ocean. The overall goal of the Save the St. Johns River tour is to unite people and organizations devoted to the river’s health and develop a unified approach to halting its degradation.
Photos courtesy St. Johns Riverkeeper
Sunrise on the final day of the tour at Huguenot