Welcome to Fort Clinch State Park. Occupying the north end of Amelia Island, this 1100 acres sports over 3 miles of coast as it runs between the Atlantic Ocean and the St. Marys River.
As you wind back the three mile lane, you pass through pristine maritime forest and alongside huge dunes piled up from a storm that took place before a written history of the area.
It is hard to get a perspective on the dunes - but at 30 or so feet high they are the largest we have seen through South Carolina or Georgia. And there are a number of acres of them along the coastal side.
Along the way you pass the lighthouse. Built in 1838, this is Florida's oldest lighthouse and was constructed from materials taken from another lighthouse that was dismantled.
Ben Faure, 22 year veteran of the Florida State Parks system and director at this park was a big help here.
There is a lot to keep track of in this park. First there is the beach that runs along the eastern edge. Hundreds of thousands of birds either call this home year around or stop by here during migrations.
A concrete pier runs along a breakwater providing an excellent vantage point for photography, bird watching or fishing.
I am not sure of the length of the pier, but it is at least several hundred yards long.
The park is grace by two camping areas - this one lies directly adjacent to the ocean.
There is another large campground on the other side of the island as well. These campsites are nestled in centuries old live oaks and run alongside the river.
Another distinctive area are the swamps - several walking and biking trails traverse this area, and throughout the park there are many trails open for use.
260,000 people visit here each year, about 75,000 of those campers.
Here Jonathon Canale, 5 year veteran in Florida's State Parks checks in a camper.
But probably the biggest draw here is Fort Clinch. The tip of this property overlooks Cumberland Sound and the shipping inlet to the river, and as such was strategically valuable real estate in years past.
If you look closely, throughout the fort you can see different types of brick used at different times during its construction.
The thirty five star flag is flow here, reflecting the flag as it was when the fort was built.
The fort was actually begun much earlier than it was finished. Construction began in 1847, but before it was finished the civil war broke out. It was used for 11 months by the Confederacy, primarily as a safe haven for blockade runners. It was reoccupied by the Union who cleaned it up and started back working toward finishing its construction.
After the civil war, the US Government had it under "care-taker" status until the Spanish-American War in 1998. After that it began falling into ruin.
Under Roosevelt's 1930's era projects it sat gathering sand. A lot of sand. When the Federal Government sent in CCC workers to fix up the fort in 1935, they first had to remove 10,000 cubic yards of accumulated sand - by hand.
Above you can see the foundations of a third large building, intended to be the officer's barracks, that was never completed.
1860's era cannon still keep watch over the inlet.
It is hard to get a feel for the size of these cannon until you see someone walking beneath them. These were huge guns, and the inlet isn't that wide. These cannon would have decimated anything that came close.
This is Seth, a volunteer that has been coming here for over twenty years. Ben Faure spoke very highly and with a lot of gratitude about the volunteers that help out here. He states that the park could not operate without them.
1,200,000 hours a year are volunteered, and this makes all the difference in times of budget cuts. The first weekend of the month a large volunteer group comes out and garrisons the fort. They live as soldiers did back in the day and show the public how all the various tasks required to run a fort like this were done.
To give some perspective, here is the northern tower of the fort with Cumberland Island Georgia in the distance. This is in fact the northernmost tip of the state of Florida.
Here are some personnel blockades, consisting merely of sharpened sticks run through a wooden beam.
These would have been used at the entry-ways of the fort to slow down would-be attackers.
Narrow, twisted stone stairways lead down into the bowels of the fort, where the brick ceilings make you wonder just how much we trust our engineers.
Long tunnel-ways and old windows make for neat photo opportunities.
In the deepest parts were the storeroom areas for explosives.
And, if you are going to have a fort, you have to have some prison cells.
There are a couple of non-profit groups that help support the fort. Every year they have a photography contest, and here are a few previous years photographs I really liked. This first one is by Larry Read.
Great timing with the robin and the berry. There is a large area in the park that migrating robins winter at.
This next one is by Milton Lowry.
The field almost looks like cotton candy.
And this next one was also by Larry Read. Nice capture Larry.
The park really is a great place to visit if you are in the area. One could easily spend a couple of days just exploring and appreciating all that is here.
Just up the street form the park a fence caught my eye. It is not usual to see Resurrection Fern growing so thickly on a slender wooden fence. So, I pulled over to get a couple of shots.
I really loved the uneven brick walkway and the gate . . .
. . . but it is the plaque alongside the gate that serves as today's parting shot . .
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