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Guide to Boating and Fishing on the Upper St. Johns River

The St. Johns River is a natural wonder that winds its way through the heart of Florida. It passes through the headwaters to the bustling Atlantic, east of Jacksonville.

Along its 310-mile journey, St. Johns river passes through a diverse array of landscapes, from the rolling hills of the Ocala National Forest to the sandy beaches of the Atlantic coast. The upper portion of the river runs approximately 80 miles from its source in Indian River County to the confluence of the Ocklawaha River.

This guide will take you on a journey through the upper St. Johns River. We will highlight the unique features and attractions that make this stretch of the waterway so special, from historical sites and natural wonders to recreational opportunities and scenic vistas. The upper St. Johns River has something for every boater to enjoy!

Brief History of the Upper St. Johns River

Historically, the land around the Upper St. Johns river was home to different Native American people. They used the river for fishing and transportation.

In the 1500s, Europeans arrived and began exploring the area. They established settlements along the river and used it for transportation and trade.

In the 1800s, steamboats became a common sight on the river, making travel and commerce even easier.

As the years went by, people started using the river for recreation, like fishing and boating. Today, the Upper St. Johns River is a popular spot for people to enjoy the great outdoors.

Top Attractions & Navigating the Upper St. Johns River

When exploring the Upper St. Johns River, you could start at the mouth of the river, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. At this point, the river is wide and deep, with a mix of saltwater and freshwater vegetation.

As you proceed down the river, some of the top attractions to see include:

  • The Timucuan Preserve. This is a protected area of wetlands and coastal marshes. It’s also home to a wide variety of wildlife.
  • The Kingsley Plantation. This is a historic plantation that dates back to the 18th century.
  • The Fort George Island Cultural State Park. It offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and a beach.

When it comes to docking, the Oasis Marinas Ft. George Island Marina is a great option. This marina is located on the northern end of the island and offers slips, boat rentals, and other amenities. It is a great spot to dock and explore the island and surrounding area.

Top Activities To Do On the Upper St. John River

There are a wide variety of activities you can enjoy on the Upper St. Johns River. These include:


Some popular areas to fish on the Upper St. Johns river include near the Welaka Boat Ramp and the stretch near Palatka. Some of the fish species you can expect to find in the Upper St. Johns River include:

  • Largemouth Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish (Channel, Blue, and Flathead)
  • Striped Bass (a non-native species)
  • Crappie
  • Sunfish
  • Suwannee Bass
  • Gar
  • Bowfin
  • Warmouth

It’s important to be aware of the local fishing rules and regulations to ensure that your fishing experience is both enjoyable and legal. These rules may include having a fishing license if you’re 16 years and above. To know which fish you can catch, follow Florida’s state-wide regulations.

It is also a good idea to check with local fishing guides or bait and tackle shops for information on the best times to fish, as well as the best methods and baits to use. They may also have information on the current fishing conditions and any potential hazards to be aware of.

Observe Flora & Fauna

You’ll see different types of trees on your St. Johns river journey, such as cypress and swamp tupelo trees as well as aquatic and submerged plant life. Wetland plants include water lilies, pitcher plants, Virginia iris, and sawgrass.

In terms of wildlife, you will be able to see birds, such as eagles, ibis, owls, and storks, amphibious animals like frogs, salamanders, snakes, turtles, and alligators, and mammals like black bears, deer, raccoons, bobcats, and even Rhesus monkeys.

Dining Options

The upper St. Johns River has several awesome places to dock and eat. These places include the following:
  • Blackwater Inn Restaurant
  • Riverfront Park Grill
  • The Blue Gill Grill
  • The Riverfront Diner
  • The Lazy Gator Grill
  • The Riverfront Cafe
  • The Catch-22 Seafood and Grill
  • The River House at Sanlando Park
  • The Boathouse on the River
  • The St. Johns River Club Restaurant
State Parks and Forests

Some state parks and forests you can expect to find in the upper St. Johns river include:

  • Ocala National Forest
  • Little-Big Econ State Forest
  • Juniper Springs Recreation Area
  • Salt Springs Recreation Area
  • De Leon Springs State Park
  • Wekiwa Springs State Park
  • Alexander Springs Recreation Area
  • Lake George State Forest
  • Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge
  • Seminole State Forest

Other Tourist Attractions

Towns to Visit

Some towns you can visit while near St. Johns River include:

  • Astor
  • Palatka
  • Green Cove Springs
  • Keystone Heights
  • Lake City
  • Welaka
  • DeLand
  • Deltona
  • Orange City
  • Lake Helen
  • Islands

St. Johns River flows through several islands located near the upper portion of the river. You might like:

  • Lake George Island
  • Lake Monroe Island
  • Crescent Island
  • Hontoon Island
  • Blue Spring Island
  • Deleon Springs Island
  • Welaka Island
  • Astor Island
  • Palatka Island
  • Green Cove Springs Island

The Upper St. Johns River region is home to many beautiful lakes that are perfect for visiting. Some popular options include:

  • Lake Hell’ n’ Blazes
  • Sawgrass Lake
  • Lake Washington
  • Lake Winder
  • Lake Poinsett

Want to Enjoy What Upper St. John River Has to Offer?

Oasis Marinas can help you plan your boating adventure to the upper St. Johns river. Our skilled staff will ensure your stay will be worthwhile. Contact our Jacksonville marina to reserve a boat slip today.