VIDEO: Exploring NE Florida's Fort Caroline National Memorial

May 1, 2017

WJCT presents a collaboration between the University of North Florida's Environmental Center and Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute of Florida on 19 short videos showcasing the city, state and national parks of the First Coast, produced by Sean Lahav, a project leader in the environmental leadership program.

Fort Caroline National Memorial, 12713 Ft Caroline Road

Tucked along the marshy bank of St. Johns River, the Fort Caroline National Memorial has been around for centuries, including — most notably — the short-lived French colonization of Florida’s northeastern coast in the 16th century. 

Hours:  9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. daily 

Description

Along the banks of the St. Johns River sits the Fort Caroline National Memorial, which chronicles more than 6,000 years of the state's history.

While the area marks some initial encounters between Native Americans and Europeans, it also teems with local flora and fauna.

History

In the 16th century, France sought its portion of riches in North America. In 1562, commanded by Jean Ribault, a crew of French sailors set off to explore the new continent, which led to the mouth of St. Johns River. Two years later, some 300 soldiers, craftsmen, laborers as well as nobility started a settlement here with the help of Timucua Indians and named it after King Charles IX — Fort de la Caroline.

Intended as a commercial venue, Fort Caroline soon became a refuge for French Protestants. But while the French grip on the region strengthened, the Spaniards grew wary. Only two years after the French established Fort Caroline, the newly appointed Spanish Governor of Florida Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles launched a surprise assault on the village. Only roughly 50 women and children survived and were taken as prisoners.

The original site of Fort Caroline is still undetermined but believed to be near present-day Fort Caroline National Memorial.

This is the second replica of the settlement after Hurricane Dora destroyed the first outdoors exhibit in 1964.

Amenities

  • Fort Caroline National Memorial features the Timucuan Preserve Visitor Center, which documents the history of Northeast Florida.
  • The area also hosts Ribault Monument, which is perched atop the St. Johns Bluff to reveal an expansive vista of the river. On a clear day, the Atlantic Ocean and Mayport Naval Station are visible from here. The Memorial also has a boat dock and a picnic area.
  • All trails are pet-friendly.
  • Throughout the spring and summer, Fort Caroline plays host a ranger program every third Saturday of the month and nature walks every Sunday.

Fort Caroline National Memorial hugs the banks of St. Johns River at a section busy with small boats and giant ships.
Credit SEAN LAHAV / UNIVERSITY OF NORTH FLORIDA'S ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER

Trails

  • The Memorial features four trails in the Theodore Roosevelt Area and around the Spanish Pond.

Parking: No admission fee

Location

Directions via I-295: Head south on I-295 toward Arlington. Take exit 47 and merge onto Monument Road toward Naval Station Mayport. After a little over 4 miles turn right onto Fort Caroline Road. Stay on Fort Caroline Road for half a mile before you reach the Memorial.

Dima Vitanova can be reached at dima93vitanova@gmail.com and Vince Kong can be reached at vkong@wjct.org