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Ravine Gardens State Park
Latest update: April 2023
Ravine Gardens State Park is a lovely park near Palatka, centered around two ravines. Up to 120-foot deep with 45 degree angled banks, the ravines were carved out over thousands of years by a spring-fed stream, Whitewater Branch, which feeds into the St. Johns River. The 1.8 mile rim loop road (paved) is popular for bicycling and walking with great ravine views, and three hiking-only trails range from easy to strenuous. The gardens were added by the Works Progress Administration )WPA) in the 1930's. A portion of the gardens are preserved, but the ravines have been left to return to their original, natural state. January to April during azalea blooming season is the best time to visit. Ravine Gardens is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Map link and photos below.)
Map link... Ravine Gardens State Park
Location: Putnam County (See map)
End Points: 1600 Twigg Ave., Palatka, FL
Mileage: 1.8 mile paved loop, 3+ miles hiking trails
Surface: Asphalt, stone, grass
Nearby points of interest: Palatka Water Works, Palatka Riverfront Park, St. Johns River Center
Support and Advocacy:
Friends of Ravine Gardens
Putnam Bicycles (Palatka)
Ravine Gardens is one of nine New Deal parks from the 1930's in Florida, the gardens were deeded to the state and became a Florida State Park in 1970. Built in "American Rustic" style, some original structures remain, including the main entrance, stone terraces, amphitheater, two suspension bridges and the Court of States with obelisk dedicated to Franklin D. Roosevelt. The 59-acre park has parking, restrooms, picnic sites, playground, amphitheater, and an activity center with pavilion, auditorium and meeting rooms. Wildlife include many species of birds. deer, foxes, raccoons, skunks, armadillos, opossums, squirrels, otters, turtles, fish, and alligators. State Park fee applies.
Note: This trip we missed the prime azalea flowering season, we plan to be back!
The one-way, 1.8 mile rim loop road is shared by bicycles, hikers and motor vehicles. While the park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset, the road closes to vehicles at 4 p.m., remaining open to bikers and pedestrians. This is the best time to enjoy the tranquil surroundings. The ravines are part of a natural hardwood forest, but when the park was created over 95,000 azaleas, 250,000 ornamentals and 11,000 palm trees were introduced. Today, the ravines are returning to their natural state with a mix of native and introduced plants.
The road is well shaded and winds around the ravines with scenic viewing areas, passing picnic areas, fitness course, and a playground. Trail accesses and staircases lead down into the ravine. At the eastern end of the loop, it passes the Historic Palatka Water Works (more below).
The loop road descends into the ravine. At the bottom of the ravine are picnic tables and interpretative signs. A large pond remains, a remnant of dams built to direct water to the water works. Waters are still channeled to the water works facility as they head to the St. Johns River. The Spring Trail runs here for hiking
Stairways and trail access into the ravines are located at the main entrance and along the rim loop road. More than three miles of hiking trails including suspension bridges wind around the ravine, through the woods, and along the stream.
Five acres of formal gardens remain, including hundreds of azaleas, stone terraces, rock gardens and fountains. The original gardens had up to 64 of the 72 varieties of azalea, today 14 varieties survive. This is a popular location for weddings and special occasions. The Court of States with the 64-foot obelisk dedicated to Franklin D. Roosevelt is located near the park entrance. A marker at the park commemorates the Bartram Trail, tracking the route of the botanist and explorer John Bartram in the 1770's.
Located just outside Ravine Gardens (separated by a fence), the Historic Palatka Water Works dates from 1886. A former water pumping facility, water from the springs was directed to the City of Palatka for drinking water, and also to fight fires. Today, the water works serves as an Environmental Education Center, with tours and programs focused on water conservation and protecting the St. Johns River. Parking, restrooms, picnic tables, nature trails, observation deck, organic community garden. Open to the public every Wednesday (8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.) and the 1st Sunday of each month (1-4 p.m.), or by appointment.
Palatka Area Overview
- Palatka to St. Augustine State Trail
- Palatka to Lake Butler State Trail
- Palatka Urban Trail
- Gold Head Branch State Park
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