Boat loaded and road trip snacks ready to serve, we jumped on I95 North for 3.5 hours for Jacksonville abound with traffic, rivers, and multiple neighborhoods each with their own identity. For this trip, we rented a small cottage via Airbnb. It was on the same enclosed property as another house designed for more people. The location was just three minutes from I95 and had a dock, however, the water was too shallow in the creek to put our pontoon boat in, so we made a new plan to simply put in our boat at a different ramp each time for the two days we planned to river roam.
After parking the boat and trailer, we off loaded the truck and discovered quickly we were missing some of the items we needed for the three nights so our son, Charlie, and dog, Seger stayed at the cottage while mom and dad set out for the Winn Dixie. Complete with armed guard at the entrance, we found everything we needed at the store and during the drive, was able to assess casual bike rides in this area was not going to be as peaceful as we had thought when loading up earlier in the day. So, back at our long weekend getaway, we made a dinner of cheesesteak sandwiches and salad. We also had a chance to meet the tenants next door, a young couple with a dog and a wedding set for the next day. They were feeling pretty festive and had the music going until 5am, though we were able to still get up early enough and prepped our coolers for a full day on the boat.
With a bit of overcast, the morning was blissfully slow as we circled around the I95 exit ramp trying to find the public boat ramp; it was good to know none of us were in a hurry. Sadly, the public space was filled with trash and both in the parking lot and in the water, complete with a sunken boat. Though, once we were on the water of the Trout River, our 73rd, it was clear that the port of Jacksonville was thriving and full of big business from cargo shipping container yards to cruise ships and giant freightliners. As we headed east for the Intercoastal, our family took a small tour down the Broward River then sidelined some of the mega ships for a shortcut that led us to Brown’s Creek Fish camp. While inside, we stocked up on shrimp and fiddler crabs for fishing; it was a great experience with friendly staff and lots of families fishing from the ledge.
Back on our journey, we were able to tap into the Fort George, Mud, Nassau, and South Amelia Rivers. Before heading back in, we filled up with fuel at a local marina…dad was quite concerned we were going to run out of gas; thankfully, we did not. Having some simple sliders on the boat with lots of fresh mandarins, we were quite hungry and excited to try the neighborhood’s signature pizza parlor, Joseph’s. Though the pizza was quite good, the stromboli and lasagna we tried were not as tasty. However, it was an extra bonus when the neighbors came over with a tray of fresh sushi and rum cake dessert bites from their wedding that day. Our son enjoyed the extra food items and encouraged us to go visit with them outside on the large party space complete with pool table, hot tub, and dancefloor. It was fun to meet them all and hear about their nuptials, a special time indeed.
Next morning, we knew that the day would not be as travel based as the day prior, so we took our time getting up and heading out. The next public boat ramp put us directly on the Ribault River, though it too was full of trash and an abandoned boat. However, at this ramp, there was a young man fishing, and we happily shared our fiddler crabs with him so he could try those while fishing from the bench, it was a sign that it was going to be a great day. The goal for the day was to make it to the Little Trout River while making time to fish and enjoy a fresh bologna and ham slider for lunch. We managed to accomplish it all, even if we only caught two tiny catfish and gave away all the rest of our bait. Still, the weather that Sunday was perfect and the music with the family bonding onboard could not be beat.
Back at the property, new neighbors arrived with their own small fishing boat and impressive dj equipment. The three men from Georgia were having a guys fishing trip and were kind enough to share their music and stories with us for a bit. After a dinner from Hip Hop Chicken & Fish, Michael played the one guy, Napoleon, is a few games of pool before we turned in knowing a four-hour journey home awaited us.
All in all, it was a memorable trip with eight rivers accomplished and plenty of great conversation on our boat and back at the pad. Though we would have liked for the property to have been in better condition, it did provide us a convenient location to complete our mission wrapping up the rivers of NE Florida, a total of 80 now under our belts. What an adventure friends, see you on the river!