In 1997, I fell in love with the St. Johns River than runs through the heart of Jacksonville. In 2005, Bill Bellville introduced me to the wild, tropical, surreal St. Johns that exists for hundreds of miles before it snakes through my adopted hometown. As part of the JCCI River Dance Study, Bill opened my eyes to the magic and historical significance of the St. Johns, imparting a deeper understanding and appreciation of the interconnectedness of the river’s wetlands, tributaries, springs and all the creatures that depend on this diverse ecosystem. To love the St. Johns, you must respect and value the entire St. Johns.

Bill shared captivating stories of his pioneering paddling adventures, covering not only the 310 miles of the St. Johns, but more than 200 miles of her tributaries. While he experienced areas along the St. Johns that provided glimpses of the river’s pristine past, his travels also exposed the toll rampant growth has had on Florida’s longest river.

“Since the turn of the century, the river has undergone marked changes, most having to do with man’s conceit that he knows how to run things better than nature.” – Bill Bellville, River of Lakes.

Bill’s gift as a storyteller and educator and his dedication to Florida waters produced an irresistible flame that ignited a desire in many of us to explore the waters throughout the St. Johns River Watershed. Most importantly, Bill expertly instilled a sense of responsibility in those who truly listened to fiercely protect and honor the St. Johns as he did.

Throughout the years, many of us had the distinct honor to spend time with Bill on the water, inspired by his words and fortified by his dedication. A true gift that I will always cherish.

To honor Bill and his steadfast stewardship, join me and re-read River of Lakes or explore his journey for the first time at your favorite spot along the St. Johns.

Here’s to you my dear friend. May my actions always live up to the high standard that you lived up to every day.