Originally published June 2010:
Located on the banks of the St. John’s River in Mandarin, the Walter Jones Historical Park offers a quiet stroll through what the area was like in the 19th century. While hardly a hike through a completely natural setting, the easy, paved trails through lush surroundings provide a nice respite from the busy interstate and shopping centers nearby. This park was the original location of a homestead, farm and 1,000 ft dock extending into the river for steamboats to load and unload citrus and goods. The trail winds past the various historic buildings on the property, and ends at the northwest corner of the property, at the current dock and boat launch.
This was the location of the original Mandarin boardwalk, which ran next to the river for about a mile to connect the community a century ago. From here, a new boardwalk follows the river amongst the cypress trees. This area is an excellent place to spot manatees once upon a time. On at least one occasion several years ago, I can remember seeing one just off of the dock. The river grass has since been removed. The trail continues back toward the farmhouse and back toward the parking lot. The trail and park aren’t built on a large lot – only about 10 acres, but with its prime location on the river, along with the dense growth of native plants, this trail feels much further from Jacksonville – both in distance and time. Find more information here.