CLAY COUNTY – If you’re looking for a quick get-a-way for spring break but don’t want to break the bank, then lands owned by the St. Johns River Water Management District offer the perfect …
CLAY COUNTY – If you’re looking for a quick get-a-way for spring break but don’t want to break the bank, then lands owned by the St. Johns River Water Management District offer the perfect one-tank stay-cation.
“These lands — more than 700,000 acres — have been brought into public ownership to help us carry out our core missions to protect water resources,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “Wherever possible, we’ve opened these lands for the public’s enjoyment.”
Across its 18-county service area, the district is lead manager on more than 40 properties that are open to the public for free. Stretching from the Florida-Georgia state line, south to Indian River County, these are diverse properties. Visitors will see such natural communities as marshes at the headwaters of the St. Johns River, pine and hardwood forests, and natural seepage ravines, as well as a wide variety of wildlife.
The Bayard Conversation Area, Black Creek Ravines Conversation Area, both in Clay County, are two of the 41 public-owned properties.
Bayard is a 10,371-acre conservation area in Green Cove Springs that provides flood storage and preservation of water and natural resources in the lower St. Johns River Basin. Recreational activities include: bank fishing, hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, primitive camping at designated sites, seasonal hunting, boating, canoeing and wildlife viewing.
Access to the northern part of the property is on State Road 16 near the Shands Bridge. Parking also is available east and west on County Road 226 on Bayard Point Road and U.S. 17, a quarter-mile north of County Road 15A.
Black Creek Ravines, a 964-acre tract, is located at 5703 Green Rd. in Middleburg. It primarily consists of natural woodlands and wetlands. The site offers considerable relief to landscaping since its elevations range for five feet above sea level to its highest point, 90 feet, in the sandhills area of the southern part of the property.
Activities include: hiking, horseback riding, fishing, primitive camping at designated areas, wildlife and nature study. Boating and canoeing also are available on Black Creek.
These lands provide nature-based activities such as hiking, bicycling, wildlife viewing, geocaching, picnicking and water-based activities such as kayaking. For the more adventurous visitor, consider an overnight stay at one of the primitive camping sites, where you can pitch a tent, cook a meal over a campfire ring and watch the stars come out in the evening sky. Visitors will want to make sure to carry in all their drinking water, insect repellent and other supplies, and carry out all trash.
Visit the district’s website at www.sjrwmd.com/lands/recreation for individual property descriptions and maps, trail guides, driving directions and a list of activities for each property.