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Astor Florida is located north of Orlando Florida between Silver Springs and Daytona Beach along Highway 40 on the St Johns
River and Lake George. Astor Florida is a small Florida Vacation community, where fishing, boating, & hunting dominate the
activities on the St Johns River. Astor Florida is home to many tourists and Winter visitors for a quiet Florida vacation.

 

MILEAGE CHART TO LOCATIONS FROM ASTOR
ON THE ST. JOHNS RIVER


AERIALS OF THE ST JOHNS RIVER NORTH & SOUTH OF ASTOR

The St. John's River is one of only 14 rivers in the U.S. to be designated as an American Heritage River for its extraordinary ecological values as well as its rich and extended human history.

From the book, "River of Lakes: A Journey on Florida's St. Johns River".
"The St. Johns is a river of infinite potential, a place to indulge myths, to evoke shards of timeless magic, to search for the natural realities that are sublime instead of merely virtual and safe. After all, this is a river where dreams have been chased through the early morning mist for centuries on the peninsula, from inside the heart-pine log dugouts of the earliest Paleo-Indians to the sleek polymer hulls of the most modern canoeist and boater. If we are lucky, we may yet find enough wildness left here to take the shrillness of civilization out of us, to discover a place, as Sherwood Anderson once wrote, where we can still "learn the trick of the quiet."

HISTORY OF THE RIVER

Astor Florida Sunset on Lake GeorgeYesterday’s mysteries join with today’s pride and glory along the riverbanks of the St. Johns. Scattered along the river’s landscape are shipwrecks, plantations and Native American artifacts.
History, much like its sepia toned water, runs deep in the St. Johns River. From shell fossils of early animals preserved in spring water caves, to pre-Colombian and Native American middens and mounds, and the wrecks of civil war steamships embedded in the muddy river bottom – the St. Johns is your most satisfying science and history experience.
 
Many European artists, naturalists and writers found the beauty of these waterways inspiring, turning their creativity into historic legacies. Inspired by his time spent on the St. Johns River, composer Fredrick Delius created the orchestral work, Florida Suite. “His lasting impressions of the wild life about him gave rise to a growing firm conviction of the supremacy of instinct and the wonder of it all,” biographer Eric Femby later wrote. “The play of light through the dense woods and gray veil of Spanish moss touched the scene with a mystery he was later to evoke in music.” The musician's house can now be seen at Jacksonville University, where it is furnished with period furniture and accessories dating from the composer’s time.
 
Before the arrival of European settlers, the first Floridians - pre-historic Native Americans - are believed to have lived along the river for thousands of years.  Historical artifacts give you insight into ancient civilizations. During river bottom dredging, workers found three totems near what is now Hontoon Island State Park. At the park pontoon ferries will take you to a 2.6-mile island, where totem replicas mark the spiritual presence of the Otter and Owl Clans who once inhabited the island.
 
The northeast portion of the basin is home to some of Florida’s most significant historical resources including some of the continent’s earliest military installations such as St. Augustine’s Fort Matanzas and Fort Caroline in Jacksonville. Symbolizing a time in American history, Kingsley Plantation, located on Ft. George Island near the mouth of the river and established in the 1700’s, is a national historic site. U.S. Navy shipbuilding was a major industry along the St. Johns, during both World Wars.  Likewise, the wide breadth of the river in southern Jacksonville served as a major port for seaplanes during World War II.
 
During the Civil War, the luxury steamer Maple Leaf was pressed into service as a supply ship. Loaded with supplies and traveling from Palatka to Jacksonville to rendezvous with thirty other Union ships, the Maple Leaf crashed into a Confederate “bomb” – a wooden barrel filled with gunpowder. The explosion killed four African American crewmen and sank the steamship within minutes. In 1987, the Maple Leaf was excavated and over the next few years more than 6,000 artifacts were recovered. In 1994, the Maple Leaf was recognized as a National Historical Landmark Shipwreck Site.
 
After the Civil War, steamboats brought tourists on Florida river excursions from Charleston and Savannah. And since then, many generations of people have found an incomparable and everlasting beauty in the St. Johns River.  This majestic Florida River has had a place in the prehistoric through the present.  And it will continue to inspire American history.  As Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings once wrote, “If I could have, to hold forever, one brief place of time and beauty, I think I might choose the night on that high lonely bank above the St. Johns River.”

NATURE ON THE RIVER
 

Astor Florida BirdBeyond the bustle of urban America lies a Florida rarely seen. A Florida that contains the secrets of thousands of years of ecological wonders, from the American treasure of the bald eagle to the endangered beauty of the West Indian manatee, from the wading roseate spoonbill to a number of artesian springs once considered the “fountain of youth.”
 
A natural wonder, the St. Johns River is one of only a few rivers in all of North America that flows north. But beyond the current is a world too extraordinary to ignore.  A kaleidoscope of historical and natural wonders - living in concert with the modern world growing up around it.
 
Witness the West Indian manatee, a familiar resident of the river. These large mammals, that can grow to a length of ten feet and can weigh up to 3,000 pounds, enjoy the warm water temperatures of the artesian springs within Blue Spring State Park. In the late 1960’s Jacques Cousteau and his divers visited Blue Spring when it was still privately owned, producing a documentary that led to the purchase and protection of the West Indian manatee’s favorite winter habitat.
 
Many people are surprised to discover that Florida has the second largest population of bald eagles of any state in the country. Only Alaska has more. Nearly 70 percent of the state’s population nests are in Central Florida along the St. Johns River. This icon of American heritage is now making its comeback in Lake George and even more predominantly in the Ocala National Forest where you can witness the elegant strength of the bald eagle soaring over the treetops.
 
Along the glassy waters of the Wekiva River, a tributary of the St. Johns River, a jungle-like variety of wildlife awaits exploration. The Wekiva sub-basin contains the single largest population of Florida black bears.  You may even spot an unexpected rhesus monkey brought originally to Silver Springs as backdrops for Tarzan movies filmed in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Descendants are now living along the Wekiva River among alligators, largemouth bass and the Wekiwa siltsnail, a mollusk found nowhere else on earth but here.
 
CULTURE ON THE RIVER

Astor Florida Lake GeorgeThe St. Johns River is off the beaten path of Florida’s more popular attractions. Amidst brightly painted backdrops the natural rhythms of this river greet those who venture along it. Take a voyage through the St. Johns River.

The St. Johns River’s cultural assets are invaluable sources of education and entertainment.  The river is your route to the culture and art of Florida communities.  For example, the river borders the city of Deland.  When Henry A. DeLand laid the foundation for the city that would bear his name; he envisioned a center of culture, education and beauty, like the Athens of ancient Greece.  Home to Stetson University and the DeLand Cultural Arts Center, the city provides a full slate of cultural offerings.  DeLand’s national award-winning Main Street features an eclectic mix of boutiques, antique shops, restaurants and gift shops. 
 
One of the southeast’s most unique cultural attractions is Deland’s African American Museum of the Arts.  This venue is dedicated to the unique art of African and Caribbean culture.  The DeLand Museum of Art displays changing exhibitions of various art forms in two gallery spaces.   A personal tour guide is available by appointment to help you make the most of these precious displays. 
 
Florida’s oldest private university will be your guide to the Duncan Gallery of Art – a modest sized, energetic gallery located in the former Carnegie Library on Stetson’s campus.

On the campus of Daytona Beach Community College the Southeast Museum of Photography is one of only 12 photography museums in the country and features historical and contemporary photography exhibits.  Several miles away from the hustle and bustle of Daytona Beach, travelers will find the white-framed, two-story Mary McLeod Bethune House on the campus of historic Bethune-Cookman College.  At the site, visitors can learn about the renowned civil rights leader and her famous college through photographs and artifacts.
Central East Florida visitors will also find pleasant historic districts in the midst of the Space Coast’s high technology attractions.  Originally settled in the 1860s, Historic Cocoa Village features a quaint collection of 50 shops and eateries along oak-shaded sidewalks and cobblestone streets.  Numerous historical structures have been restored and are in use once again, including the Village Playhouse, a former vaudeville theater now used for community productions, and the Porcher House, the home of wealthy citrus grove owners, now open for public tours.  Leisurely walking tours of the village are offered at Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science. 

The Wells'Built is the last remaining pre-World War II African American hotel in Orlando and was one of the few hotels in Orlando serving African Americans during segregation.  In the mid-1920's, Orlando's Parramore neighborhood was the center of the city's African American community.  The streets bustled with commerce by day and erupted with music by night, at Dr. William Wells' South Street Casino - a popular dance hall.  When big-name entertainers and athletes like Joe Louis, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, and Pegleg Bates came to town, they stayed at Dr. Wells' Wells'Built Hotel, next door to the Casino on South Street.  The South Street Casino was demolished in 1987, but the historic Wells'Built Hotel still stands.  

Further south along the banks of the St. Johns River, Putnam County offers pleasant glimpses into olden times with sites like the Bronson Mullholland House, the Putnam Historic Museum and the David Browning Memorial Railroad Museum. The exhibits in these quaint museums tell the story of Putnam County, including the impact of the Civil War, the advent of steamboat travel along the St. Johns River and the gilded age of the Flagler Railroad.

Azaleas bloom in odd places at Ravine State Gardens.  The 182-acre botanical garden in Palatka is set in a deep ravine along the banks of the St. Johns River and features camellias, azaleas and other flowers.  Walking trails lead around the ravine and along a spring-fed creek at the ravine’s bottom. 

As the deterioration of two historical buildings in downtown Melbourne became increasingly apparent, a small group formed the Brevard Regional Arts Group (BRAG) to revive the treasured landmarks.  The Henegar Center was born from the vision of this dedicated group of community leaders.  The buildings, formerly public schools, were donated for transformation into cultural arts facilities.  The heart of the Henegar Center is a theatre whose stage curtain was taken from the original Broadway production of The King and I, with state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems for the highest quality productions.

If you are a music enthusiast, the St. Johns River has rhythm in the spring.  The Jacksonville Jazz Festival attracts the most accomplished entertainers and performers from across the country.  Just a stone’s throw away, the Jacksonville Maritime Museum displays a model of the aircraft carrier Saratoga, ship construction, famous riverboats and tall ships.   Keeping along the waters edge, venture to The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens.  This fine arts facility opened its doors November 10, 1961.  Built on the site of Arthur and Ninah Cummer’s former home, the museum was launched with their sixty-piece collection.  The Cummer’s permanent collection has grown to over five thousand works of art encompassing eight thousand years of art history.   Particularly noteworthy additions are the Wark Collection of early Meissen porcelain, the Dennis C. Hayes Collection of Japanese woodblock prints, and the Eugène Louis Charvot Collection of nineteenth-century prints and paintings.  Two acres of formal historic gardens, created by Mrs. Cummer, enhance the museum campus.  The first garden at the Cummer residence was planted in 1903 and followed the English style. The Italian Garden followed in 1931.

THE RIVER WATER SHED


Astor Florida SunsetThe quality of our nation's waters -- rivers, streams lakes, and estuaries -- is determined by activities within the land area, or watersheds, which surround them. Although most discharges of pollutants from factories and cities directly to our waterways have been strictly controlled for many years, water quality problems remain. These problems are principally associated with run-off of rain and snowmelt. This run-off picks up soil and pollutants from the city streets, suburban lawns, and rural farm fields to become the principal reason some 40% of surveyed rivers aren't suitable for the uses (recreation, supporting, fish and wildlife, etc.) for which States have designated them. Physical changes, like removing streamside vegetation, interrupting flows with dams, draining or filling wetlands, and bulk-heading channels also degrade our water bodies. Even air pollutants from cars, power plants and other combustion sources harm our waters and the life they support when pollutants fall back to earth or are carried to the ground by precipitation. Pollution also seeps into the soil, is carried to aquifers, and then flows underground to rivers, lakes, or coastal waters.
 

MORE HISTORICAL RIVER INFORMATION

As the sun rises over the sawgrass marshes that mark the starting point of the St. Johns River, it slices through the mist that defines mornings in swampy central Florida. The rain that fell here overnight may evaporate in the afternoon, it may be used for irrigation, or it may wind its way along the length of the 310 miles of the St. Johns River and flow into the Atlantic Ocean.
Downstream, the St. Johns will declare itself a mighty river, but here in Indian River and Brevard counties, there are few defined banks and boundaries. Waterfowl, wading birds, river otters and shore birds inhabit the maze of tributaries and sloughs.
This portion of the river is fed mostly by rainfall, with the help of a few springs. The molecules of hydrogen and oxygen that mix in these shallow waters flow north -- unlike many North American rivers -- and begin a long, slow journey to the ocean.
The St. Johns River is commonly divided into three drainage basins. Basins, also called watersheds, are land areas that drain into a water body. Because the St. Johns River flows north, the upper basin is the area to the south. The middle basin is the area in east-central Florida where the river widens. The lower basin is the area in northeast Florida from Putnam County to the river's mouth in Duval County, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
The water travels this path slowly. The river's total drop from beginning to end is less than 30 feet, or about one inch per mile, making it one of the "laziest" rivers in the world.
A river of many names
Change has always come slowly for the St. Johns River. More than 100,000 years ago, much of the river was an arm of the Atlantic Ocean. Over time, ocean levels dropped and barrier islands prevented water from flowing east into the ocean, leaving it trapped in flat valleys. The water slowly meandered northward and formed the St. Johns River. The river, thus, is an ancient intracoastal lagoon system.
As the river flows north and continues to collect water from marshes and springs, it forms countless lakes on its path. First comes Lake Hell 'n' Blazes, then Sawgrass Lake, Lake Washington, Lake Winder and Lake Poinsett. The river flows into Orange, Volusia and Seminole counties, forming Ruth Lake, Puzzle Lake and Lake Harney.
Because of these lakes, the Timucuan Indians gave the river its original name, Welaka, meaning river of lakes. The Timucuan used the river for food, water and transportation for centuries before the Europeans arrived.
The river has had many names. Spanish seamen renamed the river in the 1500s and called it Rio de Corrientes, or river of currents. In 1562 -- almost 50 years before the settlement in Jamestown -- the French established Fort Caroline on a high bluff overlooking the river they called Riviere de Mai, or river of May, because they arrived there on May 1.
The establishment of Fort Caroline angered the Spanish, who marched north from St. Augustine in 1565, captured the fort and slaughtered the French. The Spanish then named the river San Mateo, honoring the saint whose feast followed the day they captured the river.
Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, commander of the Spanish army and founder of St. Augustine, was impressed with the St. Johns River. In 1596, he made a note in his diary: "The river seems to be full of goodly fish, and the forest inhabited by all kinds of birds and beasts, the meat of which is quite tasty."
Later, the river was renamed Rio de San Juan after a Catholic mission near its mouth named San Juan del Puerto. The English translated that name into the St. Johns River, a name that lasted through English, Confederate and American possession of the river and remains today.
'A brief place of time and beauty'
The flow of the St. Johns River is strengthened south of Lake Harney by the confluence of the Econolockatchee River in Seminole County. After Lake Harney, the St. Johns begins a transformation. Banks become better defined and a recognizable river is formed that flows north of Sanford into lakes Jesup and Monroe.
In her 1942 book Cross Creek, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote of this area. "If I could have, to hold forever, one brief place of time and beauty, I think I might choose the night on the high lonely bank above the St. Johns River," she wrote.
These lonely banks mark the beginning of the river's middle basin. This area has historically been prized for its bass fishing, and boasts a diverse bird population that includes egrets, ibis and great blue herons, ospreys, turkeys, cranes and a sizeable population of bald eagles. Deer and a large number of alligators reside in protected areas here along the river's banks.
One of these protected lands is the Lake Monroe Conservation Area. Owned by the St. Johns River Water Management District, 94 percent of the conservation area is wetlands that constitute the majority of the floodplain of Lake Monroe. The District has many properties open to the public and allows recreational activities on these lands whenever such activities don't pose a threat to protected water resources. The Lake Monroe Conservation Area allows hiking, fishing, horseback riding, bicycling, camping and boating in designated areas.
North of Lake Monroe, the winding waterway consolidates and continues, straddling the county lines of Lake and Volusia counties. South of Lake Beresford, the river meets Blue Springs State Park, the ancient home of the Timucuan Indians and one of the modern-day homes of some of Florida's manatees. The banks of the river still display artifacts and mounds of discarded snail shells left by the Indians centuries ago.
Beyond Blue Springs, the river enters a region of Florida famed for its resemblance to the Florida of legend. As the river runs through the Ocala National Forest and feeds into the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge, it feeds wet prairies, ponds and lakes. The Ocala National Forest is a landmark of Florida, being the most heavily visited of the state's three national forests.
Regardless of its popularity, this part of the river offers a sense of solitude that is not easily paralleled. The land is lined with towering palms, large live oaks and scrubby sand pines. Behind the tree line, bobcats, panthers and black bears roam. The contiguous landscape goes on unspoiled for miles in every direction.
Highway of the centuries
Traveling through Ocala, one can more easily imagine the sense of adventure and awe that must have overtaken the first Europeans to see the region. Two of the most famous explorers of the river were John and William Bartram. In 1763, King George III sent the two to explore Florida, which England had recently acquired. William Bartram published his book Travels as a result, detailing his exploration of the river as far south as Lake Harney.
In 1765, William Bartram wrote of the stretch of the river in what is now the Ocala National Forest. "...blessed land where the gods have amassed into one heap all the flowering plants, birds, fish and other wildlife of two continents in order to turn the rushing streams, the silent lake shores and the awe-abiding woodlands of this mysterious land into a true garden of Eden," he wrote.
Here the river creates Lake George, the largest lake on the St. Johns River. Though it is large -- 12 miles long and six miles wide -- the lake is remarkably shallow, averaging only about 10 feet throughout. The water of Lake George is also variably brackish, or high in salt content. This is because the river flows so slowly it is influenced by the tide from the Atlantic Ocean for hundreds of miles upstream. In years when little rain has fallen, sharks have been seen in the river as far south as Lake George.
Past Lake George, the St. Johns River goes through yet another transformation. It exits Volusia County and enters Putnam County, running along the Marion County line for a few miles. In Putnam County, the St. Johns River widens where it meets the Ocklawaha River, the largest tributary that meets the St. Johns. Here, the river enters its lower basin.
After the St. Johns meets the Ocklawaha River, it flows along the Caravelle Ranch Wildlife Management Area for several miles. Jointly owned by the District and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the area helps the restoration of these two major rivers and protects threatened and endangered species. The hammock islands are favored nesting sites for bald eagles.
Other significant wildlife species found here include alligator, gopher tortoise, eastern indigo snake, spotted turtle, Florida black bear, little blue and tri-colored heron, snowy egret, southeastern kestrel and limpkin. In the St. Johns River, manatee and snail bullhead can be seen as the river continues its half-completed journey north.
Several miles downstream, the St. Johns River runs through the city of Palatka. Originally named Pilotaikita, a Seminole word for "boat crossing," the area has been used for hundreds of years as a transportation hub on the river.
Transportation has always been an important use of the St. Johns River. When William Bartram sailed down the river, he stopped briefly at an Indian village on the very spot where Palatka is located. Into the 1830s, the area was a trading post, until Fort Shannon was built there in 1935 to secure the strategic location during the Seminole Indian Wars. In the 1850s, Palatka became a port of entry into the interior of the state. Steamboats brought tourism and were vital to the city's economy until the 1920s.
Modern ships still traverse the river. Cruise lines, recreational boats and commercial shipping are interwoven into the river's economy.
North of Palatka, ships on the St. Johns River see a much more expansive river as it continues. As the river straddles the St. Johns County line, leaving Putnam County for Clay County, it widens considerably, averaging up to two miles across. Standing on one of these ships one sees the St. Johns for what it is, a powerful and steady force of nature.
A beginning and an end
On the west shore of the river between Palatka and Jacksonville lies the District's Bayard Conservation Area. For roughly seven miles, the river is bordered with riverine bottomland hardwoods, pine flatwoods and sandhill communities. Woodland birds, such as warblers and woodpeckers, share the area with an assortment of creatures.
The river crosses out of St. Johns County and then Clay County and completely enters Duval County and the heart of Jacksonville. This is the largest city in Florida and, like Palatka, was founded with the river as its primary asset. The U.S. Navy presently has several bases in Jacksonville along the river, contributing greatly to the local economy. Additionally, gypsum, oil depots, and a variety of commercial traffic strengthen the city's economy.
In Jacksonville, the river turns sharply to the east toward the Atlantic Ocean, only a few miles away. Here, the river is always a mix of fresh and salt water, making the St. Johns River more an estuary than a freshwater body.
An estuary is a place where freshwater meets salt water, and is home to an extraordinary diversity of life. The beauty and diversity of this region is punctuated by sandy barrier islands, inlets and a combination of sounds, rivers and extensive coastal marshes.
As it leaves Jacksonville and runs along the spot Fort Caroline stood long ago, the St. Johns River meets the Intracoastal Waterway, forming an expanse of marshes with fluctuating depths. Due to the fact the mouth of the river was often shallow, jetties were built here at the end of the 19th century, allowing Jacksonville to become a viable ocean-going port. Jetties are pier-like structures that project into a body of water to influence the current or tide or to protect a shoreline from storms or erosion. Improvements through the 20th century have prevented erosion along the river.
After passing Mayport, the longest river contained in the state of Florida ends its journey where it spills into the Atlantic Ocean. Over its length of hundreds of miles, it has collected runoff from thousands of square miles of land. But here, things don't seem to be measured in miles or gallons. Where the ocean envelops the St. Johns River with a docile embrace, the sky and the ocean seem to stretch on endlessly.
As the sun sets over Florida, the water cycle continues. It is likely that some of the unfathomable amount of molecules gushing into the ocean will rise into the sky and fall into the St. Johns' watershed again. The resources offered by the river will continue to sustain Florida's residents in many ways. With responsible human stewardship, the beauty, tradition and abundance of this great river will flow on.




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