It is possible that John and/or William stepped onto the Water Works property at Palatka during their visits to the St. Johns River. It is possible that the Bartrams visited the site on December 25, 1765. The landing at a point of high ground with its ancient plantation of Indians or Spaniards fits a landfall in Palatka.
This 9-acre Water Works Environmental Education Center includes White Water Branch, a small stream that originates in several seepage springs at the Ravine Gardens State Park. This stream was the original source for water collection that was developed by the City of Palatka in 1886 to provide the residents with a reliable domestic water supply and fire protection. Water Works facility with the addition of several wells was capable of pumping up to a million gallons/day during its heyday.
After the old water plant was phased-out the Palatka City Commission designated the Water Works facility as an environmental education center to furnish residents with a tranquil place for reflection, community activities, and experiential learning through informative exhibits, walking trails, natural habitat demonstration areas, and special projects.
Water Works has included many Bartram features. Visitors can walk the forested Puc-Puggy Trail and find any number of Bartram’s plants. The trail’s name bears the name given to William by local Seminole people and means “flower gatherer”. A formal Bartram Garden, restored sandhill habitat, steep-head slope forest, and wetlands, featuring many of the plants and animals described by the Bartrams, including their “the great land tortoise, called gopher…” are under construction. Exhibits also feature plants raised by the local plantations during the British period along the St. Johns River, including indigo plants accompanied by a display of the vats used for the extraction of this valuable blue dye.
Bartram Trail Site Marker 6 is located at the entrance of the Water Works, is located at 1101 White Water Drive at the junction of 13th and 15th streets, next to the Ravine Gardens State Park, in south Palatka. Water Works is owned by the City of Palatka and is open to the public on Wednesday mornings and the afternoon of the first Sunday of month. Everyone is welcome. Access to the marker and the site is by foot, car, or bicycle. There is presently no River access to the site (except for alligators)
December 25, 1765 Journal Entry
“Cool hazy morning, thermometer 46 in the open air, (in which all my thermometrical observations up the river are taken). After several miles, [passing] by choice swamps near the river, we landed at a point of high ground, which has been an ancient plantation of Indians or Spaniards; many live oak-trees grew upon it near two foot diameter, and plenty of oranges; the soil was sandy but pretty good; we walked back from the river, the ground rising gradually from the swamp on the right-hand, where grow small ever-green-oaks, hiccory, chinquapins, and great magnolia, and in the swamp grows the swamp or northern kind 18 inches diameter, and 60 foot high, liquid-amber and red-maple 3 foot diameter, elm, ash, and bays; the plants were most sorts of the northern ferns, saururus, iris, pancratium, large long flowering convolvulus running 20 foot high, chenopodium as high, and 4 inches diameter, pontedereia and dracontium. Cloudy cool day, arrived at squire Roll’s, a bluff point 17 foot high, more or less, of which 5 foot is composed of snail and muscle-shells, mixed with black mould or rotten vegetables, intermixed with sand, 20 paces distant from the shore, and diminishing all the way to the yellow soil, on which grows large evergreen-oaks, evergreen shrub-oaks, where the pine-lands begin at 50 yards from the river; This shell-Bluff is 300 yards more or less along the river’s bank, gradually descending each way to a little swamp, round the head of which the pine-lands continue down the river a good way, and a little way up it; the bluff seems all soil and shells, but back near the Savanna’s is found some clay; there is a small Spanish intrenchment on the bluff about 20 paces square, and pieces of Indian pots; the river is very deep near the bluff, though there is a great barr opposite to the town, and a very rich extensive swamp.”