Theodore Roosevelt Area & Fort Caroline National Memorial
Incredible hiking trail with diverse native plants & history
Leaders: National Park Service ranger
Start Time at Site: 10:00 AM
End Time at Site: 2:00 PM
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Lunch Included? No
Handicap Access: No
The Theodore Roosevelt Area offers visitors the chance to enjoy the solitude of wilderness within the confines of a large metropolitan area. From an ecological standpoint, this field trip literally has it all and rarely is there evidence that one is in the midst of a big city. Nine distinct ecosystems have been identified within the 592-acre Theodore Roosevelt area and the trip will traverse them all.
Beginning at the Spanish Pond parking area, the four-mile trail starts at a freshwater wetland area displaying a broad range of aquatic vegetation and swamp forest species and then winds through a mature maritime forest passing by the former home site of Willie Browne. William Henry Browne III lived on the land that is today known as the Theodore Roosevelt Area. Willie spent his whole life here, and the foundations of his cabin stand as a testament to the gift he gave to future visitors. Willie gave his property to the Nature Conservancy for preservation and in 1990 the land became a part of the National Park Service.
The trail continues past Willie’s homesite out to the Round Marsh overlook where the surrounding salt marsh vegetation is home to many avian species, so bring binoculars. From there the trail reverses to the northwest hugging the marsh-side edge of a vast, centuries-old shell midden that was essentially the sanitary land-fill for generations of Timucuan Indians. The sheer size and elevation of the midden provide impressive views across marsh grasses to the St. Johns River and its estuaries. Snowberry, Wild Coffee, Swamp Privet and Oxeye Daisy are common in the understory while Hickory, Red Cedar, Sand Live Oak, Hackberry and Cabbage Palm fill out the canopy. The trail abruptly ascends the eighty foot-high midden and transitions into a west-facing slope of sand hill scrub vegetation including Sand Live Oak, Myrtle Oak, Florida Rosemary, Shiny Blueberry. The trail then descends and returns to the Spanish Pond area. This is another good birding spot.
The Spanish Pond parking area marks the end of the Theodore Roosevelt Area trail and is located across the street from the Fort Caroline Visitor Center where you will walk the ¾ mile long Ft. Caroline Interpretive Nature Trail through a mature upland maritime forest and then continue to the site of the Fort Caroline replica on the banks of the St. Johns River. Afterwards you may tour the visitor center.