Date Visited: 4/11/2019
After returning home early from our trip up the Natchez Trace Parkway we had a few vacation days left to enjoy. Over the next several weeks we’ll share what we discovered as we traveled around Florida hopping from one state park to another as we find a few gems as well as suffering a few disappointments. First Stop Gamble Rogers in Flagler County.
Originally named Flagler Beach State Recreation Area, the state park was renamed in 1992 to Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach after story teller and folk singer Gamble Rogers lost his life on October 10, 1991 in the surf while attempting to save a drowning visitor.
The park sits on one of Florida’s many barrier islands with a mix of both beach and river access. There are two campgrounds granting campers a choice between the open salty east coast breezes of the beach, or a more sheltered locations along the river.
History of the Park
From 1886 until 1918 the recreation area was first home to the Flagler Beach House of Refuge. This home was one of 10 scattered along the Florida coast built by the United States Life Saving Service to aid in the rescue of shipwrecked sailors. Once a mostly uninhabited area it’s now a busy recreation destination.
When it comes to things to do this 145 acre park packs a wallop! With it’s transition from windswept dunes, to scrub, and maritime forest this extraordinary diversity in ecosystems gives the visitor a number of experiences to chose from.
The 1/2 mile long stretch of sandy orange coquina beach is a great place to wiggle your toes in the sand. Fishing, swimming, surfing and combing the beach for seashells are all popular activities along the shore.
The beach also serves as a nesting ground for three species of sea turtle. The loggerhead, leatherback and green turtle all bury their eggs along the edge of the dunes before returning to the ocean.
We weren’t dressed for a day of sun and fun in the surf, so we headed to the riverside to see what was available.
The west access to the park takes you to the Intercoastal Waterway and it’s network of marshes and estuaries. Fishing for red drum, paddling through the mangroves and marshes, or launching your boat into the intercoastal are some of the water related activities available on this side of the park.
Also available are interpretive signs detailing the many plants and animals you may come into contact with at the park.
There is a butterfly garden, along with a short 3/4 mile long trail for those seeking an escape into nature. We started at the butterfly garden and even though the flowers were not all in bloom we were able to spot several butterflies: the yellow Cloudless Sulfur, the White Peacock whose delicately detailed white and grey wings resemble the feathers of angels, and the Common Buckeye whose brown and orange circled wing designs look more like a moth’s than a butterfly.
We also spotted a Gulf Fritillary who was kind enough to pose by his own descriptive sign as you can see in the picture on the right above. What are the odds of that happening!
We spent a few relaxing moments in the gardens watching the nervous activity of nectar gathering and mating before we headed down the attached Joe Kenner Trail.
We really enjoyed this trail. The evergreen forest of this maritime hammock was a welcome respite from the hot Florida sun. Seeing the wind twisted trees whose lean developed from years of wind exposure, looking out over the edge of the wide saw palmetto scrub, and avoiding a few patches of poison ivy along the way made this little trail both fun and challenging.
The trail itself is not accessible for people with limited mobility. There are exposed roots, a few muddy areas, and if you’re a tall drink of water watch out for the few low hanging branches. Needless to say, I don’t have that problem.
We caught sight of a marsh bunny and possibly the quick retreat of a bobcat although it moved so fast it was really hard to tell. The trail is also a bird watchers paradise so if you have time to take it slow and quiet there are a number of surprises awaiting the casual or serious bird enthusiast.
When all was said and done we really enjoyed our visit and added this park to our list of future camping destinations.
Next stop: the gardens of Washington Oaks. Until then…
Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area 3100 S Ocean Shore Blvd Flagler Beach, FL 32136 (386) 517-2086
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