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The St. Johns River The Intracoastal and Beyond

You Are Here

Every once in a while someone emails me to ask "Where are you actually located?". While it may seem to me that this is the center of the universe, I guess a few other people might like to know just where we are and have a little background on the river. So, "You Are Here":

Start off with the North American continent...


Florida is the peninsula that sticks out at the southeast corner of the United States.

Midway down the east coast of Florida, just south of the cape that sticks out and just a few miles inland, is Melbourne. The square marks out the area of our stories.

The river opening into the south end of Lake Washington.


The St. Johns River is the largest river in Florida and runs 318 miles from Melbourne to Jacksonville, cutting through some 14 counties. The source of the river is the marshy area in the Indian River County (just south of Brevard County where I live) and it flows into the ocean at Jacksonville. There is less than a 30 foot drop of the river from it's source to its mouth - about 1 inch per mile - making the St. Johns one of the "laziest" rivers in the world.

The St. Johns basin is an ancient intracoastal lagoon system. As sea levels dropped, barrier islands became an obstacle that prevented water from flowing east to the ocean. Instead, the water collected in the flat valley and moved north. This formed the St. Johns. Many lakes originated as sinkholes, but others such as Lake Washington and Lake George are natural depressions on ancient sea floors. (Lake Washington is the water reservoir for the city of Melbourne.)

The marshes near the headwaters of the St. Johns River.
This is a section of a panoramic photo by Peb.(Click the image for the full panoramic.)

Rivers, lakes and man-made canals are common throughout the state. Most Florida rivers start in swamps, lakes, or springs, and flow back and forth through swamps or marshes that provide habitat for wildlife and filter toxins from the water.

Lakes and rivers flood in wet seasons and dry out and burn in dry seasons. Native plants and animals are adapted to and depend on these natural changes. With the exception of lakes and the main river run, most of the water in my area is very shallow, providing much-needed marshlands.

The St. Johns River is home to Largemouth Bass, Speckled Perch, Bream, Striped Bass and Catfish. Also in the river are Shrimp,Turtles and Alligators. A huge variety of birds either live here year round or visit on their migration to other places. An abundance of flowers, plants, bugs, reptiles and small animals make the marsh a very busy place.


The St. Johns River at Jacksonville, Florida.
This is a section of a panoramic photo by Robert Linger.

The first Europeans to sail the St. Johns River were Spanish explorers who sailed the St. Johns River in 1520 and then French explorers in 1562.

The St. Johns River has been called many names over the years. Its name as the River May lasted only as long as it took the Spaniards under Pedro Menedez de Aviles to remove the French colony at Fort Caroline.

In the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries, the 318-mile long river became more popularly known as Rio de Corrientes (River of Currents), but also went under the names of San Mateo, Tocoy, Picolata and Rio Dulce (Sweet River).

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