May 22, 2011

5/22/11 – Fort Caroline NM & Timucuan E&HP

Most of the parks we’ve visited have been unique natural resources and we went there to look at the landscape.  Now we’re getting into areas where battles have been fought, people or places are being honored or remembered, and we’re there to learn about history.  My US history classes were a long time ago, and most of it forgotten.  Oh, well…maybe we can all learn together.
Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve is just east  of Jacksonville, FL, where the Nassau and St. Johns rivers flow into the Atlantic.  There are actually 4 different areas to the preserve:  Fort Caroline National Memorial, Theodore Roosevelt Area, Kingsley Plantation and Cedar Point. 
My Guide to America’s National Parks lists Fort Caroline NM and Timucuan E&HP as two separate places to go…but when we got to Timucuan, Fort Charlotte is right there on the grounds.  Theodore Roosevelt Area preserves a hardwood hammock and evidence of the Timucuan Indians, who were there when the French came.  It was a 3 mile hike and it was hot (93) and humid (sweaty).  Cedar Point is undeveloped.  The Kingsley Plantation has the oldest remaining plantation house in Florida—but the main house is closed for repairs and you can’t go inside the other buildings unless you’re on a ranger-led tour for which you need reservations.  Okay--Fort Caroline will do.
The ranger at Timucuan suggested that because it was so hot we walk down to the reconstructed fort first, then come back and view the exhibits in the Visitors Center.  That worked for us.
Fort Caroline was built by the French in 1564.  It’s right on the St. Johns River and built with just 3 sides, one towards the river, and the other two to protect the little colony of Huguenots.   The next year the Spanish marched in and massacred most of its defenders.  The French later sailed in and burned the fort, but the Spanish maintained control of Florida for the next 200 years.  (That’s our American history lesson for today.)

We checked out the fort—which I later learned is (a) not an exact replica because no one really knows what it looked like and (b) is only 1/3 the size of the original fort.  It’s has a triangular shape, with funny pointy corners.  I learned the pointy corners are called “bastions”, and common in fortifications of the time.
After we finished there, we went back to the Visitors Center.  Then we went grocery shopping, and home*. 

A few more pictures:  Fort Caroline NM

*Home is where you park it.

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