If there’s one thing I quite possibly love more than the food scene here in Jacksonville (and y’all know how much I love the food scene), it’s the rich cultural history. Founded in 1791, Jacksonville is now the largest city by area in the United States as well as the most populous city proper in Florida. All of that to say, Jacksonville has a lot of culture to offer the community.
Adam and I recently visited Fort Clinch State Park on Amelia Island as a research mission for an upcoming camping trip we are planning. While we were there, we took a self-guided tour of the Fort and experienced life as a soldier during the Civil War.
Located on the northernmost part of Amelia Island along Fernandina Beach and Cumberland Sound, you’ll find Fort Clinch State Park. The park offers many recreational activities including hiking, biking, camping, and geocaching. Ride your bike along the 3-mile paved tree-canopy road or the 6-mile off road multi-use trail. Willow Pond Nature Trail winds through the oldest part of the island offering a glimpse of native flora and fauna. The park also offers a 3-mile shoreline perfect for fishing, shelling and searching for shark’s teeth, swimming, and sunbathing.
For an additional small fee, you can tour the fort and explore life as a Union solider during the Civil War. Once a month, visitors can experience a Union Garrison reenactment where volunteers dressed in period costumes demonstrate firing and marching drills, masonry, blacksmithing, cooking, and interpretations of other daily activities at the fort.
History of Fort Clinch State Park
Construction of Fort Clinch began in 1847 and was named after General Duncan Lamont Clinch, a hero of the Seminole War and a Congressman from Georgia. The fort was built in a pentagonal shape out of masonry and stone which was designed to protect the coastline from invading troops. In 1861, the fort was seized by Confederate forces who occupied the fort until March 1862 when Robert E. Lee ordered the fort to be abandoned. This allowed Union troops to reoccupy the fort where they performed operations throughout the Civil War.
The fort was placed in caretaker status from 1869 to 1898 when it was then garrisoned by the Army for the Spanish-American War. The fort was abandoned later that year and deteriorated until the Civil Conservation Corps began restorations during the Great Depression in the 1930s. The CCC restored the fort to its Civil War Era glory and in 1935, the State of Florida bought 256 acres including the fort and surrounding areas. In 1938, Fort Clinch State Park was opened.
During World War II, the fort was closed and used as a communications post. Once the war ended, the park was re-opened to the public. In 1972, the fort was added to National Register of Historic Places.
Fort Clinch State Park is open from 8:00 am to sunset 365 days a year. The fort is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. For more information, visit the Florida State Parks website.