Last updated on January 25th, 2020 at 02:23 pm
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.
Instead, the park is holding Azalea Days walking tours on February weekends on the following schedule:
- Saturday Feb. 1, 8,15 and 22 at 10 a.m.
- Sunday, Feb. 2, 9, 16, 23 at 1 p.m.
The azaleas generally begin blooming in early February, according to park staff.
The park’s festival is a companion to the Florida Azalea Festival, which will be March 7-8, 2020. The Florida Azalea Festival originated in 1938 and centered around the park. Over time, many of the activities moved to downtown Palatka.
Ravine Gardens history
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.)
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.
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.
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.
Website for Ravine Gardens State Park
Other excellent Florida gardens for spring blooms
These gardens are known for their spring flowers, but they are beautiful and worth visiting any times of year.
- Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando,
- Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville,
- Alfred P. Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee
- Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales.
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.