Sunrise at Huguenot Memorial Park from our campsite where the river meets the ocean
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 5-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 (NFLT), to be a part of the conversation about the connection between healthy waterways and conservation lands. Jim discussed NFLT’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. We are excited about our partnership with NFLT 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 together we can save the St. Johns!