What reader of Bartram’s Travels has not longed to follow in the wake of William’s boat as it made its way up the St. Johns River, or to hike or ride horseback along the path he followed from Spalding’s Lower Store near Palatka to Paine’s Prairie outside of Gainesville?
Although scenery may have changed dramatically in the nearly 250 years since his first visit to Florida, the path remains, and thanks to the work of scholars, historians, and Bartram enthusiasts, the path is easier to follow today than ever before.
The development and maintenance of the Bartram Trail in Florida is accomplished by various groups, organizations and local government within each of the counties through which the trail passes in cooperation with the Bartram Trail Society of Florida. Consequently, some portions of the trail are more thoroughly developed than others.
However, it is the goal of the Bartram Trail Society of Florida to establish a continuous trail that is well documented, accurately and uniformly marked, and easy and fun to follow.
Using the various published documents of William and John Bartram chronicling their journeys in Florida during the 18th Century, The Bartram Trail Society of Florida, in cooperation with the Bartram Trail Conference has labored diligently to trace the various routes taken by William Bartram and to identify and map the sites they visited and described.
The Heritage Corridor
The National Bartram Trail is being created as Heritage Corridor. The Corridor encompasses all of the land 25 miles either side of the best approximation of the actual routes followed by William Bartram. Within Florida, the corridor includes routes taken by John and William Bartram in 1765 as well as those taken by William Bartram in 1774.
Many of the routes, especially those which followed waterways, have been mapped quite accurately. Routes which are less well documented have been mapped by connecting the “dots” of known locations visited by Bartram as well as historical records of roads and hunting paths known to have been in use during Bartram’s visits.
Within the Bartram Heritage Corridor and along the Trail are numerous sites of interest or Bartram Sites. These sites generally have special significance because they were visited and described by William Bartram or because an event occurred there that was described in one or more of his publications or documents. These Bartram Sites are marked in one of three ways: Bartram Trail Site Markers, Historic Roadside Markers, and Bartram Interpretive Kiosks.
Since 1976, the Bartram Trail Conference has worked with local groups and agencies to install historic markers along Bartram’s route. Bartram historic markers identify a site as an officially recognized Bartram locale. The BTC marker features an image of William Bartram, adapted from the famous painting of Bartram by Charles Wilson Peale.
The BTC maintains a list of marked sites along the Bartram route corridor and publicizes them. Official “Bartram” markers become part of the BTC’s “string of pearls” concept and links each site to the wider range of Bartram’s travels through the South. Historical Markers have traditionally been funded and erected by various entities chief among those being local Garden Clubs and Historical Societies. Not all are officially recognized by the Bartram Trail Conference.
There are currently 32 Bartram Trail themed Historical Markers in Florida listed in the Historical Marker Database. Historical Marker Database: William Bartram Trails Historical Markers (hmdb.org)
There are a number of interpretive kiosks within the Bartram Trail Corridor. The kiosks are intended to provide information about William Bartram, generally related to a specific location.
They also provide navigation assistance for those following the Trail.
Designated Bartram Sites
Bartram trail sites are locations known to have been visited by William Bartram. These include places he camped or hiked, springs he visited, plantations; any place that is mentioned in his writings that can be spatially located. It is the goal of the Society, to have each of these designated sites marked with a Bartram Tail Site Marker.
These markers have the Bartram Trail in Florida loge, the name of the site, a reference number, and a QR code which will tie the site to the Bartram Trail Society of Florida website where more information about the site can be seen online, and the sites are referenced in a map brochure. Bartram Trail Site Markers are currently in placed only within Putnam County.
Trails by County
The Bartram Trail in Putnam County
The Bartram Trail Society of Florida was developed in Putnam County, where the Bartram Trail segment developed there was designated a National Recreation Trail in 2016.
National Recreational Trail
31 Bartram Trail Sites have been identified and marked in Putnam County and 3 Bartram Trail interpretive kiosks have been installed at:
Downtown Palatka at the Riverfront Park
The corner of Palmetto Street and First Avenue in Welaka
Stokes Landing Road at St. Johns Shipbuilding near the historic site of Spalding’s Lower Store
There are also three historic roadside markers in the County. The Bartram Trail in Putnam County is well-developed and easy to access and follow. Brochures are available digitally and in hard copy at the Trailhead at the St. Johns River Center in downtown Palatka.
Additional Trailheads have been designated where parking, restrooms and additional facilities make accessing the Trail safe, comfortable and easy.
The Bartram Trail in Putnam County provides detailed information for this website about each of the designated Bartram Sites within the County. Many maps have been developed, including general locator maps, and route maps for biking, hiking, driving and paddling the Trail.
Information is in development for other counties, including: