Description - After initial exploration in 1562 by French explorers, a colony was established in 1564, only to be eliminated by Spanish forces from nearby St. Augustine in 1565. Nothing remains of the original Fort de la Caroline; a near full-scale rendering of the fort, together with exhibits in the Visitors Center, provide information on the history of the French colony, its interaction with the native Timucuans, and the colonists' brief struggle for survival.
Copyright: - US National Park Service
Fort Caroline National Memorial
- Fort Caroline National Memorial, a site within the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, memorializes the short-lived French presence. In May of 1562, Jean Ribault, commander of two small ships, sailed several miles up the St. Johns River and claimed the surrounding area for France. The present day site has reconstructed walls of the French Huguenot fort memorializing the 1564-65 colony. The site was designated a national memorial on September 21, 1950.
The area was also the site of pivotal Civil War involvement. Federal forces occupied Jacksonville on four separate occasions during the war. Only once was a major effort made by the Confederacy to stop the federal forces. In 1862, Confederate forces heavily fortified St. Johns Bluff with both troops and artillery. Exaggerated reports of the number of Union troops approaching the bluff lead to its being hastily abandoned. The Union forces successfully captured the bluff and began their first occupation of Jacksonville, Florida. Union soldiers eventually occupied and fortified St. Johns Bluff four separate times during the Civil War. Occupation of St. Johns Bluff was vital to maintaining military control of the St. Johns River. Today, visitors may observe re-enactments.
Recreation - Visitors to Fort Caroline National Memorial will find a visitor center depicting the historical efforts of the French and Spanish explorers. The site offers educational programs, hiking trails, and a picnic area. Viewing the lovely St. Johns River is a natural attraction as well.
Re-enactments are occasionally held at this site. In January 2001, a Civil War re-enactment themed Living History Encampment took place. The Independent Florida Battalion helped park staff interpret the daily life experiences of Union soldiers who occupied St. Johns Bluff in 1862. The all day event demonstrated the many aspects of Union soldiers daily routine, including uniform inspection, rations distribution, cooking, mail call, and manual of arms. Historic black powder weapons demonstrations and talks were held in the military camp near the model of Fort Caroline. Behind the Visitor Center, a civilian camp was open to the public offering insights into the lives of the civilians who traveled with the armies. Ranger-guided, educational walks were also held throughout the day. Fort Caroline National Memorial, a unit of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, is located in the East Arlington Section of Jacksonville at 12713 Ft. Caroline Road. Admission is free. Visitors are encouraged to wear comfortable, casual clothing, suitable for the weather. For more information about future re-enactments, call 904-641-7155.
Climate - Summers in northeastern Florida are hot and humid with frequent afternoon thunderstorms. Summer temperatures average in the low 80's Fahrenheit (27 - 28 Celsius). Mild winter temperatures average below 52 degrees Fahrenheit (below 11 Celsius). Freezing temperatures are infrequent but windy conditions are common. The average precipitation for the northeast area is between 52 and 56 inches per year. Light, loose fitting clothing is recommended in spring, summer and fall. Layered clothing is recommended for winter. Biting insects are common throughout the year and are especially heavy from late April through early June.
Fort Caroline is located in eastern Jacksonville, along the southern shores of St. Johns River several miles inland from the Atlantic. Fort Caroline is located on the road bearing the same name.