Kayak Trip Report
St Johns River
Green Cove to Goodbys Creek
This is another installment of Florida Sea Kayak Association (FSKA) members Carl and Barbra paddling the St Johns River. Carl is completing a segmented paddling of the entire length of the St Johns River, 310 miles. His travels started years ago with another group but injuries prevented him from finishing at that time. So here we were completing some more segments towards his goal. It started with a phone call from Carl, “How about we do some more of the St Johns?” So there we were before sunrise moving cars.
As luck would have it Qruiser wasn’t supposed to work on Monday so they made her take Tuesday off, the day of our paddle. Since we needed to get an early start to beat the heat Qruiser and I took two cars. We left the truck with the trailer at Goodbys Creek Ramp 9021 San Jose Blvd Jacksonville, Fl (30.215386, -81.616571) It is a county boat ramp with some facilities. COJ Goodbys Creek Ramp. We drove the car with our two kayaks to the put in at Green Cove Springs.
The Shands Bridge Pier and Boat ramp is the site of the old Shands Bridge that used to cross the river before they built the now inadequate, two lane Shands Bridge. This old bridge was two lane and real narrow built on wood pilings. When I say before it was WAY before. Now it is just a memory. Hurricane Matthew came through and tore most of the deck off of the pier and it no longer functions as a fishing pier, bridge, or attraction. But the boat ramp is still there. We met Carl and Barbra at the ramp and unloaded boats. The ramp is located off hwy 16 a short distance west of the bridge. Be sure to signal as there is a lot of traffic on this highway. The address is 4051 Old Shands Bridge Boat Launch Green Cove Springs, Fl 32043, (29.979945, -81.635466) There are plans for a new bridge eventually. To get there you drive south on SR 13, San Jose Blvd, to Hwy 16 and cross the Shands bridge. Takes about 30 minutes, which put us there at sunrise.
It turned out to be a good move to preposition the shuttle car since it allowed us to get on the water when it was still calm, and cool. We would do this on other segments of the river. The water through Green cove was near perfect. There was even a slight current going our way. The miles and the land marks seemed to glide by. Our average for these paddles is 3 to 3.5 mph. This day would be a good one.
We paddled on. To minimize distance and be ready for the forecasted easterly winds we went up the east side of the river. At this point the river is about two miles wide. Landmarks were often in the distance. The Green Cove shipyards were visible that way, a long way off. The space shuttle external fuel tank awaiting funds to its new museum home was still there. The croaker hole out by the channel marks was empty of fishermen and boats. It was a little early for them but there were a lot of boats in Hallows cove across the river. We passed Black creek where some FSKA members were doing a paddle later that day. A slight breeze came up about this area cooling us off enough to keep things pleasant. We paddled on.
Hibernia, Switzerland, Fruit Cove little areas we knew from living in the area glided by. Soon the Doctors Lake Bridge came into view on the west side of the river. The Julington Creek Bridge and a curious line of vehicles driving on the water came into view. Tall bridges like the Buckman Bridge, I-295, often show up as vehicles driving on the water rather than bridges. At three and a half miles long there is a lot of bridge that appears at water level from a long way off. At that point we’d been out for around 3-4 hours and a break on shore was discussed. We could go right up Bulls Bay on Julington Creek to the Mandarin Park and add four miles to the trip or we could go around Mandarin point to County Dock our original destination and take a rest stop. There was also the suggestion that we go into Doctor’s Lake to Whities Fish camp for gator tail and a beer, but that was ignored. Still savored as memories go though.
County Dock is a county “hand launch” boat ramp and fishing pier at the end of County Dock Road. County Dock, click here it adjoins Walter Jones Historical Park. Walter Jones Historical Park, click here But Matthew hit the dock hard and the deck, most of the hand rail, and some pilings were gone. The gates were locked. We landed, tip toed up through the mud and cypress knees to visit the facilities. It was good to get the old legs moving again. The museum at Walter Jones often has programs at the park and the local folk music groups often play there. It is a nice park in a slightly up scale but relaxed neighborhood of well-established oak trees and homes.
We launched again and made our way north. The brief respite from the sun was a welcome relief in the shade of the 8 lanes of I-295 do we took a water break under the bridge. The morning sun was reminding us that summer like weather is here in North Florida. We paddled on. Our trip takes us across Plumbers Cove to Beauclere Bluff. From there it is almost a straight shot NE to Goodbys Creek. But the easterly wind was upon us from the northwest and it seemed like the tide had turned. Paddling seemed to be harder to do. I’m thinking that the 91 degree heat and sun slowed us down more than anything. Goodbys came into view after the copper colored dock house roof and we were at the take out. This day was a 16 mile paddle with a trip average of 3.9 mph.
Goodbys creek is in the Baymeadows area. There are plenty of eating establishments nearby if you are so inclined. Hooters you pass on the way in. Wicked Barley is up the creek with water access and craft beer. The Rib Shack is on Baymeadows around the corner. The ramp also has flush toilets and plenty of parking. More than anything it had our truck, and trailer for the ride back to Green Cove for the other vehicles.
It was a good paddle.
The river is three miles wide. There are large commercial vessels using this water. The channel runs along the west side. It is easy to be away from the big boats, tugs, and barge tows.
Although a "river" it is 3 miles wide and many miles long. It can develop quite a rough condition under the right wind and tide conditions. In summer the afternoon thunder storm often generates water spouts and significant wind gusts.