Last updated on January 23rd, 2020 at 09:48 am

Azalea queen in 1949
Neva Jane Langley vied to be Azalea Queen in 1949; she was Miss America in 1953.

Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka has close to 100,000 flowering trees and shrubs, ready to be admired.

Because of storm damage, however, the annual Azalea Days festival won’t be celebrated in the park because the single road through the park is being repaired. 

This festival goes back a long time; this would have been its 73rd year.

The azaleas generally begin blooming in early February, according to park staff.

Ravine Gardens State Park view from above
Looking down at the formal gardens

The park’s festival is a companion to the Palatka Azalea Festival, which will be March 7-8, 2020.

Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka traces its story to the Depression-era jobs program, the Civil Works Administration. In fact, in 1937, it was named the nation’s outstanding CWA project.  (It’s one of nine Florida parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.)

Historic image of Ravine Gardens State Park, Palatka, Florida
Historic postcard image

During the less commercial pre-Disney era, Ravine Gardens was one of the 10 most visited tourist attractions in the state.

The army of unemployed workers  started with a deep, raw ravine formed by a spring-fed tributary to the nearby St. Johns River. They planted nearly 100,000 flowering plants — azaleas, dogwoods, redbud and camellias — creating a formal garden around the splashing stream. The gardens are set amidst a forest of native mosses, ferns and live oaks.

Azalea gardens at Ravine Gardens State Park, Palatka, Florida
Historic postcard

There’s a paved 1.8-mile road through the 146-acre park, with many picnic sites and a playground along the way.

Hikers can clamber along two miles of trails that follow the steep ravine. Two suspension bridges are a fun addition to the trail, particularly for kids.

 

Historic water wheel at Ravine Gardens State Park, Palatka, Florida
Historic postcard

If you go, take note of the administration building and the log concession building. Constructed of cypress logs and knees in 1935, they are considered regionally significant as examples of American Rustic Architecture.

Ravine suspension bridge
Suspension bridge over the ravine

Website for Ravine Gardens State Park

Things to do near Palatka:

There are a number of kayak and canoe trails in the St. Johns River and tributaries around Palatka.  Here’s our report on exploring the area from a base in Welaka.

The Putnam County Blueways has information on 13 trails.

The Atlantic beach is near and in this area it has an Old Florida feel. Flagler Beach is a perfect barefoot beach town.

Also nearby is Dunns Creek State Park, with four miles of multi-use trails (hiking, biking on fat-tire bikes and equestrian) including to the pristine waters of Blue Pond, a sinkhole lake.

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One Comment

  1. Avatar

    The garden is so beautiful. These gardens are vital to town residents. They offer a place of peace and tranquility. I will continue to support the gardens as well as attend the festival tomorrow.

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