live-oak-washington-oaks-gardenscoquina-rock-sculpted-by-the-seaOn a whim, I decided to celebrate the New Year (and my January birthday) by taking a road trip 60 miles north along the east Florida coast to Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. This barrier island park extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Matanzas River (an estuary) with entrances on both sides of A1A.

I live on a barrier island and am familiar with its ecological transition zones, or ecotones. Starting at sandy Atlantic beaches and traveling landward, one walks across dunes, coastal scrub, maritime forest with hardwood hammocks, salt marshes or mangrove swamps, and finishes the short journey on my barrier island at Mosquito Lagoon (also an estuary).

I first visited Washington Oaks Gardens State Park several years ago and was delightfully surprised by what I found there. Standing on the beach looking north, I viewed a rock outcrop and decided to investigate. What I saw made me wonder if I was still in Florida.

This was no sandy beach! It was covered by coquina rock boulders eroded by the sea into tortuous shapes. Closer inspection revealed that rock surfaces and crevices were colonized by algae and by tiny, marine organisms, such as limpets, barnacles, and snails. I found that it is best to arrive at low tide in order to see more of the exposed coquina outcroppings. Swimming and fishing here are not recommended!

The Gardens that border the Matanzas River are picturesque as well with a long history of human habitation. Here, visitors view a mix of native and horticultural plants as well as an artesian well surrounded by an ornamental pool. Spring and summer showcase the floral blooms; but the massive live oaks, covered with epiphytes, encrusted with lichens, and draped with Spanish moss, are impressive year round.

I had not visited the park in several years but found that it captivates and revitalizes me still. If you look at photos taken in the park on January 3, (posted in the Blooming Wonder and the By Land or By Sea galleries), I think you will agree that the human life span has little relevance for these ancient forms. Nature has fashioned their gnarled wood and rock beauty using seasonal and tidal processes; the trees grow and the rocks erode, but slowly.

Old trees and ancient rocks can endure through time and continue to support short-lived, transient organisms, like limpets, or lichens, or humans, but only if we ensure their protection in parks like Washington Oaks! My birthday wish is that Nature alone will determine the time of their inevitable demise, and mine, Lyn

2 Responses to “Ancient Beauty, Washington Oaks Gardens State Park”

  1. Karyn Lewis Says:

    That tree is so majestic and impressive, looking at the photo I could just start to feel what it must have been like to stand under it’s canopy.

  2. Lyn Says:

    Thank you, Karyn. A photo can only begin to capture some of this impressive tree. It was very peaceful to sit in the Gardens and admire it for a while.

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