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Northern Gateway – SR 19 from Palatka

Northern Gateway

If you’re entering the byway from the north through the Gateway City of Palatka in Putnam County, you’ll be coming south on SR 19. This stretch of byway from Palatka to Salt Springs is one of the most rural spans along the byway.

Highlights:

    • Salt Springs Recreation Area – Natural Springs, swimming, hiking, canoeing picnicking
    • Silver Glenn Springs Recreation Area – Natural Springs, swimming, hiking, picnicking
    • Kirkpatrick Dam Recreation Area – Picnicking, fishing
    • Fort Gates Ferry – Historic ferry across Little Lake George
    • The Yearling Trail – Historic trail featured in Pulitzer Prize winning novel

Cross Florida Greenway Recreation Area

     

This is a great area for camping, picnicking, fishing and boating, and OHV Trail Area. The Recreation Area includes: Rodman Campgrounds, Rodman Reservoir, Kirkpatrick Dam, Kirkpatrick Recreation Area and the Rodman OHV Trailhead.

Just south of the tall bridge over the Cross Florida Greenway, turn west on FR 77 at the sign for this recreation area.

Links: Rodman Recreation Area

         

Rodman Campgrounds

     

This is one of the few places to see the Cross Florida Barge Canal up close. Today this stretch of river looks peaceful and beautiful. However, the original plan was to cut a barge canal across Florida from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico. The project was stopped thanks to the efforts of environmentalists like Marjorie Harris Carr. This is one of the few sections of that canal. Today the preserved Greenway is named after her. This is one of the nicest campgrounds on all of the byway. It is well maintained and there are both tent and RV sites.

Links: Rodman Campgrounds

       
         

Rodman Reservoir

     

Further west along FR 77 is the Rodman Reservoir, the large lake on the north side of the road. This reservoir is part of the Ocklawaha River which continues west toward Silver Springs and east to the St. John’s River. In the 1800s Steamboats took tourists along the Ocklawaha from Palatka to Silver Springs. The Rodman Reservoir is a great spot for fishing and boating.

Links: Rodman Reservoir

       
         

Kirkpatrick Dam

     

Named for Governor Claude Kirkpatrick, the dam created the Rodman Reservoir (north side) which flows into the Ocklawaha River (south side).

Kirkpatrick Recreation Area: This well-maintained day-use area has picnic tables and restroom facilities, as well as a dock and stairs to the Dam.

On the west side of the Dam and the Ocklawaha River is a fishing dock and additional picnic area.

Links: Kirkpatrick Dam Boat Ramp

       
         

Fort Gates Ferry

     

It’s a five mile ride from SR 19 to the Fort Gates Ferry dock on Little Lake George. Look for the sign on SR 19 and check the sign for Operating Times on FR 62 before heading to the dock. The Fort Gates Ferry is a one or two car ferry that takes you on a ten minute crossing to Welaka. The Ferry has been in operation since the Civil War and only costs $10 a car. Once on the other side, however, you are no longer on the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway. But it is just a short drive from Welaka back to Palatka, so if it’s the end of your day it’s a nice conclusion as you head back north.

Links: Fort Gates Ferry

       
         

Lake George

     

Lake George is the second only to Lake Okeechobee in size in Florida, but traveling along the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway, you would hardly know it’s there. As strange as it seems, other than crossing on the Fort Gates Ferry, there is no “observation area” along the byway from which to view this large, scenic lake. You can see a glimpse of it on SR 19 just south of Salt Springs as you look east over some of the trees. Other than that, you have to get off road and make an effort to see Lake George.

The lake is part of the St. Johns River which crosses SR 40 in Astor and flows north coming out of Lake George as it heads to Palatka and on up to Jacksonville.

Links: Lake George WMA, Lake George State Forest

       
         

Salt Springs Area (SR 19)

     

Natural Springs, swimming, snorkeling, picnicking, canoeing, hiking, services & facilities. Salt Springs is the only services area on SR 19 between Palatka and the south end of the byway in Umatilla. Other than the concessions at the two Springs Recreation Areas on SR 19 (Salt Springs and Silver Glenn Springs), this is the only area for food and convenience store items.

Links: Salt Springs, Florida

       
         

Salt Springs Recreation Area

     

Salt Springs is one of the main natural springs on the byway. The water flowing from underground is a constant 72 degrees. This is a great place to spend the day swimming, picnicking, and hiking. Salt Springs gets its name from marine life that survives here in an inland water system. Blue crabs share the springs with the swimmers, they usually hide in the thick underwater vegetation. Unlike the rugged, natural look of Silver Glenn Springs, Salt Springs is marked by the cement walkway and fencing around the springs area. This is a place highly recommended to bring children – it has a festive, fun atmosphere.

Links: Salt Springs Recreation Area

       
         

Salt Springs Center

This strip mall has a couple of eateries, a sporting goods store, laundry-mat and post office. The Ocala National Forest operates a Welcome Center here, but it has irregular hours.

Links: Salt Springs Shopping – Yellow Pages

       
         

Salt Springs Observation Trail

     

If you’re looking for a short hike that will take you out to an observation deck on a river, this is a nice hike. Look for the trail’s parking lot on the left (east) side of SR 19. The hike is only 3 miles round trip.

Links: Salt Springs Observation Trail

       
         

The Yearling Trail and Pat’s Island

     

As remote as this area seems today, it’s hard to imagine that in the 1800s and early 1900s settlers lived in the woods and off-road trails and tried to eke out a living. The Yearling Trail is one of the trails that gives you a feel for the land and ecosystems that once were home to numerous families.

One of those families was the Long Family, and the Yearling Trail takes you to their land and family cemetery. The Yearling Trail is named for the Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Yearling, which was set in the byway area. It is a special honor for a byway to claim a Pulitzer Prize winning novel was written about its land and people. New York author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings settled in the area for a few years and spent time visiting the Longs and other families as she collected stories that became part of her award winning novel.

The parking lot and trailhead is on the west side of SR 19 across from Silver Glenn Springs Recreation Area. A kiosk on the trail provides a map and more details about the trail. This hike takes a good three hours round trip. There are no facilities, so bring water and refreshments before you set out.

You can see the forest “island” ecosystem here. Pat’s Island is not an island in the water, but a island of scrub oak and pine forest that stand out from the more barren landscape.

Links: Pat’s Island Trailhead, Yearling Trail

       
         

Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area

     

This is one of the major natural springs areas maintained by the Forest Service. Silver Glenn Springs is one of the prettiest and most untouched springs in the area. Crystal blue water, sandy bottom, and rugged trails surround it.

This location is also a setting in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ novel, The Yearling. It provides the backdrop for the opening chapter. The Boils Trail is another highlight of this area. Take the trail to see the water bubbling up through the sandy bottom of the creek in what are called boils.

The creek here was also a part of the opening chapter of the novel: it is where Jodi makes a “flutter mill” with two stick and a palm frond and watches the water’s current turn the mill.

Links: Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area

       
         

Juniper Wayside: This is popular spot for canoeing and kayaking.

     

Juniper Creek originates seven miles upstream from Juniper Springs to this spot and continues east to Lake George (the second largest lake in Florida). There is parking for those who have their own canoes. If you don’t have a canoe, you can rent one at Juniper Springs Recreation Area and take the four-hour long run to Juniper Wayside, where the Park Service will pick you up and take you back to your car.

Links: Juniper Run, Juniper Wayside