Clay County - Mother Nature At Her Best

06/08/2010  |  Jaclyn D. Slaybaugh Director, Clay County Tourism
TRAVEL USA

If nature is your thing, consider spending a day or two in one of Northeast Florida’s best kept secrets ... Clay County.  The county’s scenic, unspoiled and family-friendly recreation areas can be reached in less than a half an hour from the City of Jacksonville, 45 minutes from St. Augustine or a little over an hour from Gainesville, Florida.

Make a Splash

Seeking fresh air, quiet lakes, wide expanses of river or the Atlantic Ocean for your personal playground? Sailing, kayaking, canoeing or fishing — there’s a water sport for everyone in Clay County!

Love to spend the day fishing?  The lakes in Clay County and the St. John’s River (which runs the entire length of the county’s eastern shoreline) are a great place to catch Black Drum, River Catfish, Sea Bass, Whiting, Wahoo, Ringtail Porgies, and Redfish. 

Several public boat ramps are located along the river and provide easy access to the water whether you stay in one of the hotels in Orange Park or in an historic B&B in Green Cove Springs. The St. Johns River has been known for centuries as a perfect location to boat, sail, and fish. In the mid-1800s, famous novelist, Harriet Beecher Stowe, referred to the St. Johns River as “liquid lapis lazuli” and the same can be said today of its deep blue waters.  

The Black Creek Ravines Conservation Area, one mile east of Middleburg along the south bank of Black Creek, provides a picturesque setting for boating, kayaking and canoeing. The county also has numerous fresh-water lakes that offer residents and visitors alike an enjoyable place to boat, water-ski or ride a wave-runner.

Full marina services including power boat, houseboat and jet ski rentals are available at Doctor’s Lake Marina in Orange Park, Green Cove Springs Marina and the Reynolds Park Yacht Center in Green Cove Springs.

Sleep Under the Stars

Camp Chowenwaw Park is one of the newer members of the Clay County parks system. The Camp is located just south of the Black Creek Bridge on Highway 17 between Fleming Island and Green Cove Springs. Clay County purchased the 150 acre camp in 2006 from the Girl Scouts who had operated it for more than 70 years. 

The camp has 100 acres of wetlands and 50 acres of uplands, and is located at the mouth of Black Creek. The camp’s location on 1.5 miles of shoreline on Black Creek and Peters Creek provides a habitat for many listed wading birds. The aquatic vegetation provides foraging areas for the St. Johns River manatee population as well as an ideal habitat for many fish species.  Bald eagles, fox squirrels, river otters, gopher tortoises, white tailed deer, wild turkeys, alligators, and many other species of amphibians and reptiles are just a few of what you might see while visiting Camp Chowenwaw Park.

The camp sleeps 124 people per night. There are seven block cabins with bunk beds, nine unique “tree houses” with four bunk beds each and two lodges with bunk beds sleeping sixteen people per cabin.   Fifteen tent camping sites are also available. Large fire rings and barbecues are placed throughout the camp for marshmallow roasting under the stars.

Vehicle access is limited in the camp to minimize impacts on natural resources and to protect plant and wildlife communities. Camping sites and cabins are accessed by walking trails. 

Tee Time

To the first-time visitor in Northeast Florida looking for a relaxing round of golf, Clay County offers some of the finest quality courses in the region.  All six golf courses (River Bend Golf Links, The Golf Club at Fleming Island, Eagle Landing at Oakleaf Plantation, Eagle Harbor Golf Club, Magnolia Point and the Country Club of Orange Park) score high on the quality-versus- price meter.

With an average year-round temperature of 80 degrees, greens and fairways in Clay County are open year-round.  

After the Sun Goes Down

Hungry after a long day of fun in the sun? No problem ... Clay County has a host of restaurants to suit most everyone’s taste buds and wallet. Enjoy a cool brew and some fried catfish dockside at a fish camp or enjoy some mouth-watering southern fried chicken and black-eyed peas with a glass of sweet tea.  

Watching the greyhound races at the Orange Park Kennel Club can be a fun night for the whole family.  The Kennel Club is conveniently located on Park Avenue (Hwy 17) near the I-295 interchange in the Town of Orange Park. You can watch the races from the comfort of one of the Clubhouse’s air-conditioned restaurants or sit trackside for a closer view of the action. The Kennel Club also has Poker Rooms for those wanting to test their skills at a game of Texas Hold’em. 

Year-Round Festivals and Events

Summer months bring a variety of 4-H and equestrian events including barrel racing to the Clay County Fairgrounds. The Fairgrounds are located on Highway 16 west of the City of Green Cove Springs.  

Although thousands upon thousands of people visit famous sites throughout our nation to celebrate the Fourth of July, there are many more thousands quietly or maybe not so quietly celebrating closer to home.

Several cities in Clay County including the City of Keystone Heights and the City of Green Cove Springs will be holding spectacular 4th of July festivals to celebrate our country’s independence from Great Britain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For additional information, or to receive a free Clay County Information and Visitor’s Guide call the Clay County Tourism Office at 904-278-3737 or visit www.exploreclay.com.
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