Putnam County has a rich and diverse history. Early documented history can be found in William Bartram's Travels, published in 1769. Bartram describes the native settlements and the early pioneers that farmed the area, and the abundance of plant life that he found here. “It's Our Nature” is the city's theme.
Pilatka, a Seminole word meaning “Crossing Over” or “Cow's Crossing”, was settled by James Marver, and his associates, who purchased land grants from the Spanish Government and opened several trading posts along the St. Johns River.
During the later part of the 19th Century and into the 20th Century, Putnam County was a tourist Mecca. The City of Palatka boasted several world-class hotels, with more than 6,000 rooms. The main attraction was riverboat trips on the St. Johns River up the Ocklawaha River to Silver Springs. Crescent City and Welaka were destinations for wealthy northerners seeking refrain from the bitter winters. Here they enjoyed the mild winters and the healing waters from the local natural springs.
From Palatka, visitors would ply the St. Johns River to explore and settle the interior of Florida.
Padddling near Welaka
The scenic St Johns River is the home of the Putnam County Blueways. These paddling trails include:
The St. Johns River Paddling Trail
The St. Johns River is Florida's longest river stretching 310 miles from the St. Johns Marsh near Vero Beach to the inlet at Mayport near Jacksonville. It is Florida's only American Heritage River.
In Putnam County, the St. Johns runs 60 miles from the northern-most boundary near Bostwick to its southern most boundaries including Drayton Island in Lake George near Georgetown. There is one traffic bridge spanning the river in Palatka. The river is over 2.5 miles wide north of Palatka and less than 1,000 feet wide at several points south of the Buffalo Bluff railroad trestle. There are seven tributaries feeding the river within the county's boundaries including Florida's oldest river -- the 130-mile long Ocklawaha River and the end of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway.
Early well-know travelers of this section of the river were John and William Bartram, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Ulysses S. Grant, Harriet Beecher Stowe along with hoards of French, British and Spanish settlers. For centuries Florida's original inhabitants paddled Putnam County's river. There are scores of Native American historic sites along the river including the Mr. Royal Indian Mound site near Fruitland explored by John Bartram. Palatka and this section of the river was the main tourism destination in Florida during the second half of the 19th century having over 1,000 hotel rooms and many riverboats with paddleboats in tow. The most popular trip was a three-day cruise on the St. Johns and Ocklawaha Rivers from Palatka to Silver Springs and back.
Towns and communities along the river include: Palatka, East Palatka, San Mateo, Satsuma, Bostwick, Federal Point, Buffalo Bluff, Stokes Landing, Welaka, Georgetown, Pomona Park, Crescent City, Browns Landing, Shell Harbor, Hermits Cove, Rodeheaver Boys Ranch, Drayton Island, Fruitland, Mt. Royal.
|Wildlife, Reptiles, and Birds|
Wild hogs, whitetail deer, Virginia opossums, river otters, raccoons, grey squirrels, wild cats, Florida black bear, manatees.
|Water moccasins, rattle snakes, water snakes, gopher frogs, salamanders and alligators.|
|Swallow-tailed kites, sand hill cranes, osprey, bald eagles, brown pelicans, sea gulls, kingfishers, humming birds, wild turkey and many species of wading birds.|
Trail Length 60.7 miles
There are many public and private landings along the St. Johns River in Putnam County including Palatka, East Palatka, Crescent City and Welaka. There are nine (9) public landings directly on the river and a total of twenty (20) public landings on attached waterways within the county. There are many other private, fish camp, and marina landings available.
|Paddling the St Johns River|
Because of the width of the St. Johns River, it is recommended that paddlers keep to the beautiful shorelines. There are marked channels on the river and caution should be used when crossing the channels. Wind can be an issue in the wider sections of the river so checking the weather is as essential as it is in any outdoor activity in Florida. List of landings with GPS coordinates will be available on the county's website and in brochures.
Ocklawaha Paddling Trail Ocklawaha River
This is the lower part of the Ocklawaha River and is as it was hundreds of years ago, in its pristine natural beauty, totally unmarred by restaurants, marinas, gas pumps or waterfront homes. The natural landscapes are mostly hydric hammocks and flatwoods, with scrub pine ridges and sugar sand banks. The trail starts at the Kirkpatrick Dam managed by the DEP/OGT and ends at the St. Johns River across from Welaka. This was the main tourism attraction in Florida for over 50 years during the 19th century. The Ocala National Forest on the southern banks and the Caravelle Ranch Wildlife Management Area (SJRWMD) on the northern banks border the shores. This is the largest of the St. Johns River's tributaries. Parallel to the river is Bear Creek, which offers tight wilderness paddling on the way from the Highway 19 bridge to the river.
The OGT manages the adjoining Cross Florida Greenway hub and Rodman Campground. Welaka is 0.3 mile from the mouth of the river.
|Trail length 8.9 Miles|
There are two landings in the Kirkpatrick Dam area - one paved boat ramp on the eastern side of the dam and a sandy landing on the western side. Restrooms and picnic areas are available here. There is a public landing at the Highway 19 bridge known as the Johnson Field boat ramp. The Ocala National Forrest manages a campground at the historic Davenport landing. Welaka's public ramp is 1 mile from the mouth.
|Paddling the Ocklawaha|
This is the most beautiful of Putnam County's Paddling Trails. The river flows steadily and there is turn after turn to keep paddlers alert. The trail is the most paddled waterway in the county. The Ocklawaha is teaming with wildlife including alligators, snakes, and hornets. There are several sandy beach landings along the river including the historic Davenport Landing. The Ocala National Forest manages a campground here. About half way down is the Highway 19 bridge and Johnson Field boat ramp. The mouth of the river is 1 mile from the Welaka public landing and boat ramp. There are restaurants and facilities within walking distance. When paddling the Ocklawaha River, it is recommended that paddlers keep to the beautiful shorelines. There are marked channels on the river and caution should be used when crossing the channels, especially crossing the St. Johns River. GPS coordinates will be available on the county's website and in brochures.
Paddling the Oklawaha
Murphy Island, Polly Island, & Rat Island Paddling Trail
These trails are all surrounding Murphy Island located 7 miles south of the Palatka bridge. The Buffalo Bluff railroad trestle is just south of Murphy Island. The island is part of the 1,842 acre Murphy Creek Conservation Area managed by SJRWMD. It hosts multi-use trails, primitive camping, boat dock and facilities. Murphy Creek maintains a width of about 100 yards its entire length. Rat Island Creek and Polly Island Creek are narrower. All three creeks join the St. Johns River and Dunns Creek Paddling Trails. The shores are primitive hardwood wetlands with lilly pads and Vallisnaria grass abounding. Murphy Island contains one of a few upland areas along the river and contains sandhill, flatwoods and hardwood hammocks. The bluffs on the island provide an opportunity for a spectacular view of the river and its beautiful sunsets.
The Browns Landing community is just across the St. Johns River. There are man-made canals cut into nearby Dunns Creek, home to mobile homes and docks. The St. Johns River Club development is located on the western shore of Murphy Creek. The Buffalo Bluff community is just south of Murphy Island.
● Murphy Island Paddling Trail - 8.9 Miles
● Polly Island Paddling Trail - 1.8 Miles
● Rat Island Paddling Trail - 1.4 Miles
Browns Landing is a public boat ramp and floating dock located directly across the river less that ¼ mile from the trails. Crossing the river's channel is necessary and caution should be used. There is an unimproved landing ¼ mile up Dunns Creek at the Highway 17 Dunns Creek bridge with plenty of parking. The St. Johns River Club has a private boat ramp on a canal into Murphy Creek. You can ask for permission to launch from their office.
Paddling Murphy Creek, Polly Island, and Rat Island
This group of paddling trails offers some of the County's most beautiful waterways. With access to Murphy Island and the surrounding trails a day can easily be spent in this area. The Murphy Island boat dock is 1 mile from Browns Landing. Since primitive camping is available, overnighters are recommended. Fishing and bird watching is outstanding. This is old Florida. There will be motorized traffic, so paddling near the beautiful shoreline is prudent. If launching from Brown's Landing, you will cross the river's channel and care should be taken.
Dunns Creek Paddling Trail
Paddling Dunns Creek during a full moon
Dunns Creek paddling trail is 6-mile long deep creek linking the St. Johns River to Crescent Lake. It averages 100 yards wide the entire length of the creek. The Dunns Creek Bridge of Highway 17 passes over the waterway near its connection with the river. Murphys Creek and Rat Creek are connected at the northern mouth. The shoreline is largely uninhabited except for the first two miles on the eastern shore. SJRWMD manages the Dunns Creek Conservation Area on 5 miles of the eastern shore of the creek. Dunns Creek State Park is located on the western shore for nearly its entire length. At Pine Landing, the State Park offers picnic tables, artesian well water and restrooms. Beautiful wetlands, cypress trees and lily pads are viewed. The waterway is subject to strong tidal flows.
Small developments are located near the river on its eastern shore. Dunns Creek State Park's Pine Landing is located 5 miles from the river.
|Trail length 6.0 Miles|
|Flora and Fauna|
Dunns Creek is best known for its catfishing and its connection to nearby Crescent Lake. Many species of birds and animals live on the shores of Dunns Creek. Manatees regularly travel the waterway and the American alligator grows large in these waters. Cypress trees, hardwoods and lily pads line the entire trail.
There are two public landings available and several private landings. There is an unimproved soft landing underneath the Highway 17 Dunns Creek bridge with plenty of parking space. Dunns Creek State Park has a soft landing but the park is not open to the public except during Open House events. Georgia Boys Fish Camp just off Highway 17 has a landing, rooms, snacks and fishing gear. Dunns Creek is 1.5 miles from Brown's Landing in Palatka.
|Paddling Dunns Creek|
Because of the width of Dunns Creek, it is recommended that paddlers keep to the beautiful shorelines. There is no marked channel and because of the motorized boat traffic, caution should be taken. Since the waterway is subject to swift tidal flow, it is recommended to verify tide information before you cast off. List of landings with GPS coordinates will be available on the county's website and in brochures.
Crescent Lake Paddling Trail
Crescent Lake is approximately 30 square miles of clean, sparkling water, lush shoreline vegetation, and excellent scenery. It is over 11 miles long from North to south and from 1 to 3 miles wide from east to west. It is bordered to the east by Flagler County and the west by Putnam County. The lake is fed to the south by Haw Creek. To the north, the lake connects to the St. Johns River through Dunns Creek. Bear Island is a private island located near the center of the lake. Crescent City offers food, drink and lake access. The Trail begins to the south at Haw Creek and ends at Dunns Creek State Park's Pine Landing.
|Flora and Fauna|
Crescent Lake is known for its American Bald Eagle population and largemouth bass, speckled perch and blue gill fishing. It is a prime American Alligator habitat. Manatees are known to make this lake home. Cypress swamps border most of the shoreline.
Towns along the trail include Crescent City and Pomona Park.
|Trail length 17.7 miles including 2 miles of Dunns Creek|
There are two public landings in Crescent City and several private landings. Crescent City has two parks on the shores of the lake - Fletcher Park and Margary Neil Nelson Sunrise Park. A short walk from the lake is the Lake Stella landing and park. There is public land at the end of Pomona Park Landing road but it needs development.
Flagler County manages the Haw Creek Preserve and Russell Landing. There are two other public landings on the east bank in Flagler County - Bull Creek Campground on Dead Lake and Shell Bluff landing just off Highway 100 south of San Mateo.
|Paddling Crescent Lake Paddling Trail|
Because of the size of Crescent Lake, it is recommended that paddlers keep to the beautiful shorelines. There lake averages 10 feet in depth and caution should be used when crossing the lake. This is a well-known bass fishing lake and fast boats are always present. Wind can be an issue so checking the weather is as essential as it is in any outdoor activity in Florida. A list of landings with GPS coordinates will be available on the county's website and in brochures.
Seven Sisters Paddling Trail
Seven Sisters Paddling Trail
The Seven Sisters Paddling trail is located at eastern end of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, 0.5 mile south of the Buffalo Bluff railroad trestle and 12 miles south of the Palatka bridge. This historic area includes Stokes Landing to the west where John Bartram stored supplies, shipped his samples and received his mail. The Union and Confederate armies fought the Battle of Horse Landing and the Union ship Columbine was sunk here. The trail includes nine uninhabited islands and the entrance to the Cross Florida Barge Canal. Except for the communities the shoreline is largely a flood plain swamp and hydric hammock. Creeks weave around the islands and lily pads and Vallisnaria grass abound. There is a long crooked creek that averages less that 50 yards wide leading from Hermits Cove toward the south around Trout Island. This trail is 1.5 miles long. The St. Johns River is 300 yards wide and splits the islands. The Rodeheaver Boys Ranch is 1 mile south of the islands. There are sunken barges and ships in the river across from the ranch creating interesting viewing.
Hermits Cove and Buffalo Bluff are on the eastern shore of the paddling trail. The Stokes Landing community is located on the western shore. The St. Johns River Club is just around the bend half a mile north of the railroad trestle. The St. Johns Ship Building facility is located on the western shore. The Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway trailhead is a 1.75-mile paddle from the area.
|Trail length 8.8 Miles|
The only public access to the area is a small boat ramp in the Hermits Cove community. Nearby, the Hermits Cove Marina has docks, parking, food and beverages. Simply ask before you launch. Parking is nearby. The paddling trail is 3.25 miles from the Browns Landing boat ramp. There are two private landings in the Buffalo Bluff community, and details will be on the website. There are no public landings in the Stokes Landing area.
Paddling the Seven Sisters Island
This area is a beautiful paddling area with the many islands and wildlife species. The trail averages over 100 yards wide and the river is narrow. Caution should be used when crossing the river channel due to motorized traffic. Plan your paddle before you cast off since you will be returning to your launch site and there are several creeks and islands in the trail.
Blue Grass Festival (February 15-17, 2013)
Florida Gourd Show (February 22-25, 2013)
Florida Azalea Festival (March 2-3, 2013)
Catfish Festival (April 5-6, 2013)
Mug Race (May 3-4, 2013)
Bostwick Blueberry Festival (May 18, 2013)
Blue Crab Festival (May 24-27, 2013)
Artoberfest (October 6, 2012)
Fall Bluegrass Festival (October 11-13, 2012)
Palatka Railfest (October 20-21, 2012)
St. Johns River Blues Festival (November 17-18, 2012)
WHERE TO STAY:
Quality Inn & Suites Riverfront
201 North First Street Palatka, FL 32177
Best Western Inn of Palatka
119 S. Hwy 17 East Palatka, FL 32131
Holiday Inn Express
3813 Reid Street Palatka, FL 32177
Crystal Cove Resort(Riverfront)
133 Crystal Cove Drive Palatka, FL 321779673
Sleep Inn & Suites
3805 Reid Street Palatka, FL 32177
St. Johns Campground
436 S Highway 17 East Palatka, FL 321319014
Bass World Lodge (Riverfront)
209 Browns Fish Camp Road Georgetown, FL 32139
Acosta Creek Harbor Inc.
124 Acosta Creek Drive Satsuma, FL 32189
Georgetown Marina & Lodge (Riverfront)
1533 County Road 309 Georgetown, FL 32139
Welaka Lodge & Resort (Riverfront)
1001 Front Street, Welaka, FL 32193
Georgia Boys Fish Camp (Riverfront)
217 Butler Drive, Satsuma, Florida 32189
Stegbones Fish Camp (Riverfront)
144 N. Fish Camp Road - Satsuma, Fl. 32189
Scruftys Riverwood RV Park (Riverfront)
1389 County Rd 309, Georgetown, Florida 32139
386-467-7147 / 888-467-7144
Porky's Landing & Marina (Riverfront)
126 Georgetown Landing Rd, Georgetown, FL
1 (386) 467-3956
Welaka Inn (Riverfront)
10 Boston Street, Welaka, FL 32193
NOTABLE PLACES TO VISIT:
Downtown Palatka -
Dining, Night Life, Shopping, Festivals, Events
Welcome Center 386-328-0909- Mon. - Sat. 10-4 & Sun. 12-4
900 St. Johns Avenue, Palatka, FL 32177
RAVINE STATE GARDENS PARK
A 59 acre gardens, nature trail, exercise course, and picnic areas. The 1.8 mile road around the ravines can be accessed by car, bike or walking.
1600 Twigg Street, Palatka
Admission is $4.00 (1 person in vehicle), $5.00 (2-8 people in vehicle), $2.00 (1 person walking in park). Children under 6 free. Open Daily - 8:00 a.m. until Sundown
Welaka State Forest
Located along the east bank of the beautiful and historic St. Johns River. A series of foot trails offers the public an opportunity to walk and observe wildlife. Mud Spring trail leads the visitor on a two mile self-guided looped walk to Mud Spring Picnic Area. The spring is also reachable by paddling a short run from Little Lake George. John's Landing trail meanders along old road beds to the St. Johns River. There are two primitive campsites located on Little Lake George available to paddlers by reservation.
Information: 386/ 467-2388
Cross Florida Greenway Campground - Rodman
Rodman Campground is located near Rodman Reservoir on the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. Kirkpatrick Dam is less than a mile west of the campground and offers a boat ramp and soft landing to the Ocklawaha River Paddling Trail with access to the Putnam County Blueways, fishing piers, picnic areas and restrooms. The Florida Trail Association hiking trail and an atv trail is located one mile west of the campground. Within the campground, there is boat ramp access to Rodman Reservoir. There is a wide variety of fish species in this location. The area is popular for bass fishing. Access to the St. Johns river from Rodman Reservoir is through Buckman Lock. .Rodman Campground is a 69 site camping area with a boat launch to access the reservoir. 43 Campsites are available with power and water hook-ups or 26 primitive sites are available for “roughing” it.
Information: (386) 326-2846
For reservations, contact (800) 326-3521 or TDD (888) 433-0287 or online at www.ReserveAmerica.com.
DAVID BROWNING RAILROAD MUSEUM
Historic Photos and Documents, Railroad Memorabilia Operating Model Train
11th and Reid Street, Palatka
Open 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. 1st Sunday & 3rd Saturday each month
For Information Call or to schedule a tour call: Palatka Railroad Preservation Society 386-328-1539
More than Century-Old Home of Judge Isaac Bronson
100 Madison Street, Palatka
Open 12:00 - 5:00 p.m. Wednesday - Sunday
Over 30 murals depict Putnam County's historical, cultural and natural resources.
MT. ROYAL INDIAN TEMPLE MOUND C.1250-1500.
Once a Timucuan Indian Temple. Largest sand mound in Florida. William Bartram was first to write about the mound and urge that it be preserved. Free Admission information 386-467-2863 or visit www.mtroyalairpark.com
WELAKA NATIONAL FISH HATCHERY AND AQUARIUM
Operated by the U.S. Department of Interior
Aquarium located on Highway 309 Welaka Aquarium, Observation Tower, 3/4 Mile Nature Trail, Picnic Area, Wildlife Viewing
Guided Group Tours Open Seven Days A Week Free Admission 7:00 - 4:00 p.m
For more information:
Contacts for Blueway Community Events:
News and Special Reports