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MarshBunny Notes
The St. Johns River The Intracoastal and Beyond
Camp Holly

Camp Holly Fish Camp and Airboat Rides
Camp Holly Fish Camp

I kept my boats at Sweetwater Resort for several years, and even lived there for a year after the Challenger disaster, but eventually I sold my houseboat to the owner of Camp Holly and moved my kicker boat over to his camp too.

I kept my Gheenoe there for 18 years, and it was really nice to have my boat sitting right there on the river, but the original owner is no longer there, and recently I repaired the damages done to my boat and moved back over to Sweetwater. My boat's still sitting on the water, just on the Sweetwater Canal.

US-192, the main access to Central Florida from our town, used to pass on the south side of Camp Holly. There were two earlier bridges built on the south side of the camp, but when they built the newest bridge they put it to the north (just to the right of the photo above) and tore out the middle of the old, southern, bridge.

Tour boats out of Camp Holly go thru my regular stompin' grounds. Many years ago the original owner of the camp had a 3-seater boat he would take people out in. He would go past a group of us and we could hear him idle down to tell his riders things like "Those were Florida crackers back there, and that meat they were cooking was probably alligator, and that jug was full of white lightning....."

Might have been.

Camp Holly tourboatI've worked out signals with some of the different airboat drivers for the camp. When you are out in the heat all day it is sometimes nice to have an airboat "blow" you....they drive past aiming their rudders towards you and spray you with a fine mist as they go by. That can feel really good on a hot day...if you're expecting it.

One driver used to drive up with a tour boat and raise an eyebrow as he went past. If I wanted to be "blowed" I put my hand on top of my hat to hold it in place and gave a nod. We went through our routine one day as I sat talking to another boatload of fishermen. They weren't in on the signals and got really mad that they had been blown, even though I told them it was my fault.

Another driver used to see me paddling around or just sitting in the middle of nowhere and drive over to see if I was o.k. . Trust me, if I'm NOT o.k. I will be standing up in the boat waving my arms, yelling and screaming for help. I am not shy in certain circumstances - - such as being broke down in the middle of the marsh. If I am in distress you can bet your ass I won't just be sitting there reading a book and noshing on grapes.

Camp Holly flooded
Camp Holly nearly flooded from heavy rains.

Through the years I have been friends with many people who lived at Camp Holly - the original owners and various regulars and residents. My son was once great friends with the son of the owners and we all made some wonderful memories growing up together. Members of my family have worked at the camp, and we have had Thanksgiving potluck dinners in the main building. We have seen years when the water was ankle deep to walk into the main building, and years when it was so low we had to struggle to push my boat out of the muck hole to launch it.

We used to fire off our Fourth of July fireworks off the end of the old bridge,

Catfish on the bridge ready to be cleaned and cooked.

and once I attended a wedding there - the bride wore a denim halter-top dress and the groom couldn't let go his cigarette. We had a rousing good party afterwards. For several days, as I vaguely recall.

We all used to run trot lines, and when we had an overabundance of catch we would throw a cook-out there at camp. We would clean our catch and fry it up all right out on the bridge - vast batches of catfish nuggets, each batch spicier than the last.

We would have so much fish we would take trays of catfish nuggets into the bar area to share. A couple of our group ran crab traps, so sometimes we would have blue crab feasts where we would cook up a bushel and try to eat our way through them.

Once upon a time Camp Holly was a real happening place. People would drive for many miles to get a Holly Burger for lunch, there was always a pool game going on, and for a while a Bluegrass group would practice there. You could always count on a crowd having a good time!

The camp is no longer run by the original owners and after close to 20 years of keeping my boat there I have moved out, but we really used to have some good times there!

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