Sunday, April 10, 2005


Cruisin' the St. Johns river


By Dan Scanlan
April 09, 2005

A small alligator suns itself on the remains
of a shipwreck in Six Mile Creek.
DAN SCANLAN/The Times-Union

They cruised over the remains of a Civil War Union steamer known as the Maple Leaf, sunk by a Confederate mine off Mandarin in 1864.

They also saw all sorts of critters -- both airborne and swimming -- when about 40 people took part in a St. Johns Riverkeeper's three-day boat cruise between Jacksonville and Sanford.

The cruise began early March 29 in downtown Jacksonville, with Shorty Robbins, St. Johns County's recreation department administrative manager, presenting history lessons while dressed in a hoop skirt and bonnet as the wife of a Union Army captain, circa 1864.

"I wanted to talk about the history of the St. Johns River, particularly the Maple Leaf, but as we get into modern times, about the parks and preservation of the river," Robbins said.

The first stop in Six Mile Creek south of Orangedale included the sight of a baby gator sliding off a shipwreck as the boat docked. That is the way to learn more about the river, Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon said.

"We have gone back in time and experienced some of the history," he said. "We just came from Trout Creek, one of the last undeveloped areas, and saw a lot of great wildlife ... alligators, numerous bird species and lots of turtles on a beautiful day like today."

The travelers spent the first night in Palatka, then visited Murphy Creek, Silver Glen Springs and Mount Royal on March 30.. Their March 31 trip included lunch at Hontoon Island State Park, a visit to Blue Spring State Park and a final docking in Sanford.

The Riverkeeper is a non-profit grass-roots organization that serves as an advocate for the St. Johns River and works to protect, preserve and restore the river's ecological integrity. The organization does two trips in spring, and two more in fall.


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