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Bartram Trail in Putnam County

Point Of Interest


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The legacy of William Bartram’s extensive travels and writings during the late 1700s continues to resonate with today’s modern explorers. Visitors can follow in the footsteps and river wake of John and William Bartram by bike, kayak or canoe, boat, on foot, or by car, using a well-developed trail matrix embracing the majestic St Johns River. William Bartram, a botanist, artist, naturalist, humanist, and author, explored the area along the St. Johns River in Putnam County with his father, John Bartram, a royal botanist appointed by King George III. They traveled by boat on the St Johns River, a 500-mile journey that lasted almost two months. William Bartram’s momentous southern journey took him from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains to Florida, through the southeastern interior all the way to the Mississippi River. The heart of William Bartrams’ book, Travels, published in 1791, documents local flora and fauna, and records his colorful encounters with local traders and native tribes. Bartram was a renaissance man who melded art and science into an indelible record of his adventurous encounters with the natural world. He was named ‘Puc Puggy’ – the flower hunter- by the local Seminoles in Florida. Using the writings of John and William as well as those of respected historians, each of the likely locations where the Bartrams touched shore along the St. Johns River to camp or explore has been identified and mapped. Much of the habitat described so vividly by William can still be seen along the river and we can follow the route with some certainty. Modern day explorers can access a wealth of technology to plan adventure on the Bartram Trail. Choose hiking, biking, paddling, or driving tour options and then dive into layers of rich history. Each trail site includes journal entries from Bartram’s Travels, photos, GPS coordinates, and extensive links to resources. Links to the Bartram Collection in the Natural History Museum in London reveal amazing illustrations including one of an alligator reminiscent of an Old World dragon. There is a YouTube Channel with virtual tours and over thirty story maps that provide a wealth of information. The St. Johns River Center on Palatka’s Riverfront offers travelers directions, maps and information. A nationally recognized event, the Bartram Trail Conference (BTC), was held in Putnam County, in October 2015.The BTC was established in 1976 to locate and mark the route of William Bartram through eight southern states. The BTC works to promote interest in developing recreational trails and botanical gardens within the corridor of Bartram's route through the individual states. Currently several segments of the Bartram Trail are designated as National Recreation Trails in North Carolina and Georgia. There are also plans to coordinate a regional effort to designate the entire route. The Bartram Trail Conference has erected highway markers and provided information about Bartram’s heritage across the southeast. The Bartram Trail in Putnam County overlays two other state paddling trails designated as part of the Florida Greenways & Trails System: Putnam County Blueways, and the St Johns River Blueway. The St. Johns River is also designated as an American Heritage River in recognition of its ecological, historic, economic, recreational and cultural significance. With over 100 active volunteers, the Putnam Blueways & Trails Citizen Support Organization does an outstanding job of developing and supporting trail initiatives and maintaining the Bartram Trail throughout the rural county. This energetic CSO also has Facebook page and website that provides trail maintenance contacts, an active calendar, and natural resource links. The CSO is an event-driven organization that holds monthly bicycling, paddling and hiking events, as well as work days and clean-ups. Large annual festivals held for paddlers, cyclists, hikers draw visitors to the area and provide economic benefits to local business owners. Kayak clinics lead by well-trained volunteers are held for young people to help connect them with the area’s beautiful waterways. Putnam County CSO partners with the St Johns River Alliance, Paddle Florida, and in 2015 sponsored the Paddlers’ Rendezvous, an annual state-wide gathering of over 200 participants and volunteers. In December, 2015, Paddle Florida and Putnam Blueways and Trails partnered to hold the first annual St. Johns River History Paddle where paddlers from around the country retrace 60 miles of Bartram’s journey. The Bartram Trail offers enticing journeys for all types of explorers, enriched by a wealth of on-line resources. No matter your means of transport, discover a slice of pristine rural Florida made richer by the colorful history of Bartram’s legacy and enduring natural wonders.