Category Archives: Florida

Fort Caroline National Memorial

Overview

After a failed settlement by persecuted French Protestants (Huguenots) in 1562, two years later a group of 200 soldiers, artisans, and a few women established a colony at the mouth of the St. Johns River (east of present-day Jacksonville, Florida).  Led by René de Goulaine de Laudonnière, they hurriedly assembled the triangular Fort Caroline, named for King Charles IX.  In 1565, Jean Ribault arrived with 600 more settlers and soldiers.  After learning the Catholic Spanish had established a base to the south at St. Augustine, Ribault set sail for a surprise attack, only to be shipwrecked by a hurricane.  The unprotected Fort Caroline was easily captured by the Spanish, who executed 140 of its 200 inhabitants.  The Spanish then killed the majority of the 250 French marooned at Matanzas Inlet, which gained its name from these “slaughters.”

Highlights

Museum, reconstructed fort, Hammock Trail, Ribault Monument

Must-Do Activity

The National Park Service (NPS) administers Fort Caroline National Memorial (established in 1950) as a unit of Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve (established in 1988).  Start your visit at the NPS museum, which provides information on the indigenous Timucuan, as well as the European colonization efforts.  After walking the Hammock Trail to see the reconstructed fort, drive to the nearby Ribault Monument, a replica of a stone column left by Jean Ribault at the mouth of the St. Johns River on May 2, 1562.

Best Trail

Within this 139-acre National Memorial, the Hammock Trail visits the reconstructed fort along the St. Johns River.  Starting from two parking lots south of Fort Caroline Road several trails explore Spanish Pond and the Theodore Roosevelt Area of Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The actual site of the original fort has never been found (and is probably underwater), but you can tour a one-third scale reconstruction of the triangular structure based upon a drawing from 1564 by French artist Jacques le Moyne.  The French got a measure of revenge in 1568 when they attacked and burned Spanish-controlled Fort Caroline, but they could not take St. Augustine and never colonized Florida again.

Peak Season

Winter when there is less mosquito activity.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/timu/learn/historyculture/foca_visiting.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Little Talbot Island State Park and Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park (run by the city of Jacksonville) both have campgrounds.

Related Sites

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve (Florida)

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Florida)

Fort Matanzas National Monument (Florida)

Explore More – When the Spanish took control of Fort Caroline in 1565, what did they rename it?

Everglades National Park

Overview

Everglades National Park covers most of the southwestern corner of Florida.  The ’Glades are very flat, with elevation topping out at 8 feet above sea level.  This region is important to many unique species of wildlife, imperiled by sea level rise and the introduction of exotic species.  Incredibly close to the city of Miami, the Shark Valley tram tour offers a great opportunity to see alligators.  Near the campground at Flamingo, Eco Pond and Mrazek Pond are both good spots to watch for wading birds like ibis, egret, heron, wood stork, and roseate spoonbill.

Highlights

Eco Pond, Mahogany Hammock, Anhinga Trail, Shark Valley tram tour, Wilderness Waterway

Must-Do Activity

There are few roads in Everglades National Park, so the best way to experience this “river of grass” is from the water.  There are guided tours out of Flamingo and Thousand Islands, or you can get a permit to explore the untamed Wilderness Waterway and the keys of Florida Bay.  We had a blast navigating the mangrove channels to our chickee (elevated camping platform) and did not see another person for two days. “Hell to get into; hell to get out of” is how old-timers described the mazelike route to Hell’s Bay.  Good navigation skills are required and you should come prepared for mosquitoes every month of the year.

Best Trail

On the Anhinga Trail, its namesake birds stretch their wings to dry in pond apple trees while alligators swim right under your feet beneath the boardwalk. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

Wildlife abounds so you will want to remember to bring your binoculars and a zoom lens for your camera.  You can get good photos of alligators while remaining safe and dry on the Anhinga Trail boardwalk.  We also got very close to a barred owl and several black vultures on the same trail in April 2014.

Peak Season

Winter

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$30 per vehicle or America The Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

The major entry roads are paved to access Flamingo, Thousand Islands, and Shark Valley.

Camping

Camping in the park, at Long Pine Key or Flamingo, provides quick access to trails that come alive with wildlife during the crepuscular hours (sunrise and sunset). 

This design we created to celebrate Everglades National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – Who was the woman instrumental in the creation of Everglades National Park when she published The Everglades: River of Grass in 1947?

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De Soto National Memorial

Overview

Why create a memorial to a genocidal Conquistador when he was not the first Spaniard to land in Florida?  Good question.  Juan Pónce de León and Pánfilo de Narváez had both already met their demise in this region, but that did not deter Hernando de Soto from trying again in 1539.  He did not die until three years later, after he led his soldiers all the way to the Mississippi River leaving a path of destruction in their wake.

Highlights

Camp Ucita, film, Memorial Trail, Holy Eucharist Monument

Must-Do Activity

De Soto made landfall in Florida somewhere in the vicinity of modern-day Bradenton, Florida where the Manatee River reaches Tampa Bay on the Gulf of Mexico.  He left behind 100 men there in Camp Ucita, a replica of which was built on the site of the 27-acre De Soto National Memorial.  In the winter (a.k.a. touristy) months, costumed interpreters work at the replica Camp Ucita.

Best Trail

Hike the half-mile Memorial Trail through the mangroves to the Holy Eucharist Monument.  Then cool off in the air-conditioned visitor center to watch a 22-minute film on the Spanish expedition. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

If you visit around Halloween, a scary skeleton Conquistador atop a skeleton horse will greet you at the entrance to the National Park Service visitor center.

Peak Season

Winter

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/deso/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

A paved road leads through a residential neighborhood to the visitor center, so watch out for dog walkers and joggers on the road and trail.

Camping

Myakka River State Park is southeast of Bradenton (where private campgrounds are also available).

Explore More – The Spaniards brought many diseases to the indigenous peoples, but the introduction of which domesticated animal had the longest lasting ecological impact?

Dry Tortugas National Park

Overview

Only accessible by boat or floatplane, Dry Tortugas National Park is a remote paradise 70 miles west of Key West and home to a diverse array of birds and sea life.  Fort Jefferson was built on Garden Key starting in 1846 and was never completed before it was abandoned in 1874.  Today birders come from all over to see the rookery of 100,000 sooty terns on Bush Key, and also get the joy of watching the acrobatic dives of brown pelicans, double-crested cormorants, and magnificent frigatebirds with their seven-foot wingspan.

Echo was bringing the CHAOS to Dry Tortugas National Park.

Highlights

Fort Jefferson, snorkeling, birding, overnight camping

Must-Do Activity

Turquoise blue water is home to amazing coral reefs right offshore from Garden Key, with some coral and sea fans growing on Fort Jefferson’s brick moat wall and old dock pylons.  Snorkeling among the historic debris feels like exploring an ancient shipwreck.  The daily ferry ship provides free snorkeling gear for day-trippers.

Best Trail

Walk the sea wall that circles Fort Jefferson for great views and a chance to see the endangered American crocodile that sometimes resides in the moat.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Walking the archways of Fort Jefferson in the rays of the rising sun or watching a sunset from atop its ramparts is a great reason to spend the night here.

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Peak Season

Weather permitting, the Yankee Freedom ferry boat runs daily all year, but you may want to be cautious during hurricane season.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/drto/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

A park entrance fee is collected by the Yankee Freedom ferry service when you purchase your tickets, but is refundable at check-in if you have an America The Beautiful Pass.  A nominal camping fee is charged to stay on Garden Key.

Road Conditions

A parking deck (fee) is located right near the docks and check-in for the Yankee Freedom ferry boat.

Camping

Primitive camping is allowed on Garden Key for a small fee.  Campers must bring all of their own water and the only way to cook is with charcoal since fires and stoves are prohibited.

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Scott walking on the moat

The lighthouse with Majestic Frigatebirds

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A view of the ferry boat from atop Fort Jefferson.
Yankee Freedom ferry boat docked outside Fort Jefferson.
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When snorkeling only ten feet from shore, this stingray swam right past us.
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Our original logo is for sale on a variety of products on Amazon and Cafe Press

Explore More – Why were the islands of the Tortugas labeled “Dry” on early maps?

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WONDON WAS HERE

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