Step into the Past Where the American Civil War is still in Progress
by: Kacie Couch
“What a strange looking bird!” exclaimed the bearded man as we looked up at the helicopter flying overhead. It was a beautiful day in July and we were standing outside. I was wearing a sundress that came down to my knees and he was decked out in a woolen long-sleeved uniform. In JULY… In Florida. This was right after he called me a “jezebel,” no less.
After hearing this story you might think that I spend my July’s in an institution for the mentally unsound, but in reality I only had to go as far as Fort Clinch State Park to experience this level of insanity. When you enter the Fort itself one of the first things you see is a sign that reads “You are stepping into the past. The year is 1864 and the civil war is in progress.” As you can probably guess from what I relayed to you a moment ago, the reenactors take that sign VERY seriously.
While experiencing the historical aspect of Fort Clinch State Park’s incredibly preserved fort and grounds is extremely fascinating, so is the ecological aspect. Most people who visit Fort Clinch State Park don’t realize that the park is much more than just the Fort itself. It consists of 1,427 protected acres on which live hundreds of species of wildlife. Six miles of maintained trails and around three miles of natural, undeveloped beaches make this state park one of my absolute favorite places to go to enjoy nature in our area.
Unlike the sometimes overcrowded beaches in Jacksonville and Main Beach in Fernandina, the beaches of Fort Clinch are secluded and in pristinely natural condition. Taking a walk along the river side of the waterfront, you are more likely to see a Great White Egret or a raccoon than you are to see a person. White tailed deer, bobcats, shorebirds and fiddler crabs are a common sight, and if you’re lucky you might spot a horseshoe crab, some dolphins, or maybe even a sea turtle.
To make it even better, I’ll let you in on a local secret: Fort Clinch is a WONDERFUL place to fish! Artificial reefs (created entirely by accident by the Corps of Engineers while trying to fight beach erosion) produce an underwater habitat for sea creatures. This time of year the flounder are out, as well as red and black drums, sheepshead, and more. The half mile long fishing pier is a great place to cast a line, or you can enjoy a lazy day lounging on the beach, pole in hand. Either way, Fort Clinch’s isolated beaches are a great place to relax and catch some dinner.
However, if you’re like me, you’ll agree that things are just more interesting from the water. Therefore you’ll be happy to know that Amelia River Cruises and Charters river cruises travel up the St. Mary’s inlet to give you a one-of-a-kind ocean view of our beautiful Fort! Come join us on the boat, take a seat and enjoy hearing about the history and ecology of our beautiful Fort Clinch State Park. You’re guaranteed to learn a thing or two and see interesting wildlife!
See you on the boat, everyone!