Bartram bass sculpture PalatkaLast year, during our research for Explorer’s Guide: North Florida & The Panhandle, we saw a National Trail symbol in Palatka and had to learn more. It marked the recently established Bartram National Recreation Trail, with an interpreted series of stops along and near the St. Johns River in Putnam County. So when Linda Crider with the Bartram Inn reached out to see if we’d be interested in joining the inaugural Bartram Adventure Tour to help the group with feedback on how best to showcase these gems, we jumped at the chance to hike, bike, and paddle in and around Palatka.

With the Bartram Inn in the South Historic District as our base camp, we spent four days with local naturalists and Bartram experts learning about the Bartrams in Florida. John Bartram served as Royal Botanist to King George III when he paddled upriver with his son William in 1765 and 1766, seeking specimens to send to England and to cultivate at his Philadephia gardens. William returned in 1774 to explore the river again, finding landscapes that had already changed.

Between the two Bartrams, this stretch of the St. Johns River was well documented in the 1700s. Thanks to the local experts who took us out to a variety of sites in the region, we experienced a better connection with both natural and cultural history in this rural landscape. As we said to each other after we wrapped up this trip: “Palatka. Who knew?”

PLANNING RESOURCES: Bartram Trail in Putnam County


Biking on the Bartram Adventure Tour On a Bartram Adventure Tour - On a guided Bartram Adventure Tour, we hiked, biked, and paddled to follow the travels of William and John Bartram along the St. Johns River on the newly designated Bartram National Recreation Trail, centered in Palatka, Florida.
St. Johns RiverPaddling the Bartram Trail in Welaka – Learning how botanists William and John Bartram traveled along the St. Johns River in the 1700s, I followed an experienced river guide for a look at part of the Bartram National Recreation Trail from the water on our Bartram Adventure Tour in Palatka.



St. Johns River Center PalatkaSt. Johns River Center – Start your journey here. For environmental education with a dash of regional history, the St. Johns River Center in downtown Palatka tells the story of Florida’s longest and most storied river.
Beecher Run Bartram TrailBeecher Run Nature Trail – A stop along the Bartram Trail, the Beecher Run Nature Trail at Welaka National Fish Hatchery provides a walk beneath ancient pines along the edge of the hatchery ponds, which are fed by historic Beecher Spring.
Mount Royal Bartram TrailMount Royal – One of Florida’s largest mounds, Mount Royal was first documented by William Bartram in 1765, when it was an important central feature of a large village along the St. Johns River.
Bass sculpture Palatka Riverfront ParkPalatka Riverfront Park – Recently re-imagined to showcase the beauty of the St. Johns River, Palatka Riverfront Park offers a quarter-mile riverfront walk with panoramic views.
Palatka Water WorksPalatka Water Works – On the grounds of the Water Works Environmental Education Center, explore the historic Palatka Water Works and a short interpretive trail dedicated to William Bartram’s travels as Puc Puggy, the Flower Hunter.
Ravine GardensRavine Gardens State Park – Known best for its hillsides of blooming azaleas each February, Ravine Gardens State Park melds historic planted public gardens with the intriguing setting of a deep steephead ravine above the St. Johns River in Palatka.
Welaka State ForestWelaka State Forest – Protecting more than four miles of deeply forested waterfront on the St. Johns River across Little Lake George from the Ocala National Forest, Welaka State Forest offers both natural beauty and a deep subtext of cultural history.
Bartram LoopWilliam Bartram St. Johns River Loop – Discover the beauty of Welaka State Forest on a 5 mile footpath that winds along ecotones and hugs the bluffs of the St. Johns River to showcase the natural wonders that botanist William Bartram documented in 1774.
Johns Landing TrailJohn’s Landing Trail – Following a series of forest roads through the heart of Welaka State Forest, the John’s Landing Trail has several scenic spots along its 4.3-mile loop, from bluffs along the St. Johns River to shimmering lily-covered flatwoods ponds.
Mud SpringMud Spring Trail – At Mud Spring, mud isn’t what you’ll see in the gently rounded basin that cradles an underwater garden. This glassy natural pool is the payoff halfway around a 1.7-mile hike that is one of the highlights of Welaka State Forest.


Palatka: Walking & Biking

Putnam Bicycles
River City Antiques
Elsie Bell’s Antique Mall
Palatka Art League
Angels Diner
Uncork and Unwind
Bartram Inn

Welaka: Hiking & Paddling

Shrimp R Us
Renegades on the River

East Palatka: Touring

Adams Plantation with Mike Adams as William Bartram
Corky Bells


Center map