"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

April 13, 2014

April 12 – Palatka, FL

Palatka City Dock

Today we moved further up river to the historic town of Palatka. At one time is was the major steamboat port on the St. John’s River, shipping timber, oranges and cattle north. It was also a popular spot for seniors to escape the harsh winters of the north. Large hotels were built on the waterfront offering sailing, fishing, rowing, walking, riding in buggy and on horseback and hunting. The town burned in the 1884 and tourism gradually shifted elsewhere and the city lost trade, shipping and transportation to Jacksonville.

We enjoyed a beautiful spring day exploring the nice waterfront town and visiting with locals in the park. There was a sidewalk chalk art festival being held close to the dock…it was fun to see what they had come up with and listen to the music from a live band. We had dinner at Angel’s Diner, the oldest diner in Florida. It’s been operating in the same spot since 1932.

St. John’s History: In the 1800s, steamboats carried freight and passengers on the river and its tributaries. During the peak period of commerce on the river 150 vessels traveled the St. John's making daily trips between ports and carrying nearly 100,000 tons of freight each week. The U.S. Census of 1880 recorded that there was a larger fleet of steam vessels carrying passengers and freight on the St. Johns than on any river south of the Hudson in New York.

Steamboats made the St. John’s River a popular winter destination for northerners. By the 1860s, several steamers were making weekly round trips from Charleston and Savannah to Jacksonville, Palatka and other settlements along the river. The St. Johns River had become one of Florida's first tourist attractions. Large paddle wheel boats cruised along the river's swampy byways, stopping at warm artesian springs and extravagant hotels that dotted the shoreline. But, somewhere through the years, the St. Johns lost its place among the top Florida destinations. Speckled with cypress and egrets, live oaks, palms and ibises, the St. Johns meandering stretch below Jacksonville is as delightful today as it was centuries ago.

Our morning view
Palatka waterfront park 
The Pearl 
Two of the art work we saw at the Chalk Explosion 
Angel's Diner
Palatka has over 30 murals depicting the historical, cultural and natural riches of Palatka and Putnam County. This one is called The Putnam House.
Battle at Horse Landing

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