When I heard about Azalea Days, March 14 and 15, at Ravine Gardens State Park, I was off and running. I enjoy taking day-trips in Florida, and this is a park I had not seen. Azaleas and a Ravine? I was intrigued!

Ampitheater Stage

Ampitheater Stage

The Park brochure explains that the Gardens were developed by the City of Palatka, the Federal Civil Works Administration (CWA) and the Works Project Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression, 1933-1938, one of nine New Deal Parks in Florida. Some of the surviving structures include the main entrance, amphitheater, suspension bridges, stone terraces, and the Court of States with an obelisk dedicated to President F.D. Roosevelt.
Stairs to Suspension Bridge

Stairs to Suspension Bridge

Azaleas are the theme flower of the park. By 1934 over 95,000 had been planted by Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) workers. In 1999, the park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Although Azaleas can bloom from January through April, I arrived to find that (sadly) most of the Azaleas were past bloom, but I still photographed some lovely examples. (See the pink and white and bright pink azaleas included on the previous blog entry.)

A 1.8 mile loop trail encircles the ravine; visitors can either drive or walk, stopping at several parking / observation areas along the way. I hopped aboard an open-air wagon hitched to a truck, with a dozen other guests. A park ranger narrated as we slowly wound around the loop, providing an overview of the Park’s natural and human history.

I learned, for example, that the ravine was created over thousands of years by water flowing from the sandy ridges on the shore of the nearby St. Johns River. The park is actively managed to prevent erosion, to maintain the historic architecture, and to control invasive, exotic plants, such as air-potato and Chinese tallow. (For more information, see the Park’s Management Plan.)

Fountain and Garden

Fountain and Garden

After the informative tour, I explored on my own both, visiting the formal gardens and fountain near the entrance and the amphitheater, located half-way round the trail. I looked down into the ravine, and climbed down the stairs to the bottom, enjoying perspectives of vegetation, ponds, suspension bridges, plants, and wildlife, including a brief glimpse of a soaring swallow-tailed kite.
Bridge over pond

Bridge over pond

What a treat! I will surely visit next year, hopefully when the abundant azaleas are full-bloom. That must be a glorious sight! Next trip… Mt. Dora. Lyn

2 Responses to “Ravine Gardens State Park”

  1. Karyn Lewis Says:

    What a beautiful park! I love the bridge over pond photo. I can’t recall if you mentioned how deep the ravine was?

  2. Lyn Says:

    Hi Karyn, thanks! Yes, that picture is one of my favorites too.

    I looked at the topo map for the park from the management plan, and I would say the ravine is about 40 – 60 feet deep. When looking down into it from the loop trail, you are at the tops of the trees. Then you go down in and get to see how tall those trees are! Lyn

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