Sam Carr with Bartram Trails in Putnam County at Satsuma Spring

We began the day with a warm send-off from the generous and hospitable residents of Drayton Island who hosted our group in their homes and nourished us with a delicious Easter dinner and hearty breakfast before we departed.

On the water, we were joined by Sam Carr and Ken Mahaffey with the Bartram Trails in Putnam County. Both are locals with tremendous pride in their River and its heritage. Sam and Ken showed us numerous sites along the river that the famous naturalist William Bartram visited and wrote about in the 1700’s, including Mount Royal, Welaka Spring, Satsuma Spring, Spalding’s Lower Store, and Rollestown. One of the highlights was our visit to Satsuma Spring that is located on the riverfront property of Peri Taylor, a St. Johns Riverkeeper member. This magical spring that was visited by Bartram is fortunately being protected by Peri with a conservation easement on her property.

Robin Lewis, a wetland scientist and Board member of the Putnam County Environmental Council, joined us in the afternoon as we took a short trip up the Ocklawaha River, the largest tributary of the St. Johns. Robin discussed the importance and benefits of restoring the river and what we can all do to help Free the Ocklawaha.

For lunch, the tour team visited Renegades on the River, an upscale fish camp featuring a great menu. Renegades offers a waterfront tiki bar, marina, cabins and and RV park. The owners invested heavily in this waterfront business that relies on a healthy St. Johns River. Welaka Mayor Gordon Sands joined us for lunch, informing the group that Welaka is now completely off septic tanks and expressing the pride that he has in his community.

After lunch, we skirted around Murphy Island and ventured into Dunns Creek. This tributary connects Crescent Lake with the St. Johns River. We also made a quick stop at Georgia Boys Fish Camp, the oldest continually operating fish camp on the river.

In the evening, Putnam County Commissioner Chip Laibl and other community leaders hosted a fish fry in honor of the Save the St. Johns Tour at the St. Johns River Center in Palatka. The dinner brought together a diverse group of area stakeholders to help foster cooperation and communication in an effort to protect and save something everyone in attendance clearly loves – the St. Johns River.