Another Disappointing trip to Fort Matanzas National Monument

Date Visited: 12/7/2019

At this point in our travels we’ve grown accustomed to thwarted plans as our trip to Fort Matanzas in St. Augustine, Florida was about to be a disappointment for the second time.

Our attempt to journey across the river and explore the fort (one that must be taken by the National Park Service Ferry) was a no go. During the previous hurricane season the dock was damaged and repairs had not been completed. Our first attempt to make this trip was waylaid by an early closing schedule for some event happening in the area. With two failed attempts to visit this historic location, it was beginning to look like this piece of Florida history will have to be experienced by relying on book study and a search of internet images to build our knowledge of understanding. Very disappointing. We would prefer the full experience that utilized all of our senses, but at some point you just decide to write it off and after two attempts, I think we are pretty much done.

Having used up our drive time and more trying to find out when the park would reopen, our remaining time in the area was now limited. However that would not stop us from finding something to enjoy. We viewed the Fort from across the river and took the short looped nature trail that started and ended at the parking lot to learn about some pre-fort history of the area.

The nature walk was a nice easy boardwalk approximately .5 miles with ten interpretive stops along the way. Most of the walk is under the shade of a typical Florida coastal hammock, offering nature lovers a respite from the sun and (depending on the timing of your visit) the songs of both local and migratory birds.

Creeping along the ground and in the canopy you’ll spot Virginia creeper and grapevines. Red bay trees, live oaks, and saw palmettos live among other species such as southern red cedars.

We enjoyed the little side step that took us to a seated bench area that highlights (with bronzed plaques) the footprints left in the sand by a variety of creatures that roam the dunes day and night. We had a blast trying to match the tracks on display with the tracks in the sand.

About halfway down the trail we learned how Matanzas earned it’s unusual name. Matanzas being “slaughters” in Spanish.

When King Philip II of Spain learned that the French had established Fort Caroline in Florida he sent General Pedro Menendez de Aviles to remove the French. At the same time Jean Ribault sailed from France with 600 soldiers and settlers with resupplies for the French Fort.

Once arriving in Florida, Ribault set out to attack the Spanish at St. Augustine, but the ships were carried south by a hurricane wrecking and scattering the men from what is now known as Daytona Beach to Cape Canaveral. At the same time, Menendez and his troops captured the French settlement at Fort Caroline.

Having little food and weapons the French survivors of the shipwrecks surrendered. Only 16 were spared and the rest were executed. The first of the shipwrecked to be executed were 111 in number. Two weeks later 134 more (including Ribault) met their fate. From that day forward the inlet was called Matanzas.

Although disappointed that we could not set foot on Fort Matanzas, we were delighted to learn a little about the history of the area that pre-dated the construction of the Fort. When life hands you lemonade… well, you know the saying.

Next week we keep a promise by returning to Washington Oaks to visit the little known area called “The Rocks”.

Until then… Take care!

Fort Matanzas National Monument
8635 A1a S,
St Augustine, FL 32080
(904) 471-0116

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