I had driven past hundreds of times, but never stopped. Mostly because of the traffic and because by the time I noticed the sign, it was well in my rear view mirror as I navigated a sea of cars. This small section of Savannas Preserve State Park lies on the west side of US1 just south of Crosstown Parkway not too far from the boarder of Martin and St Lucie counties.
This past weekend, I passed it again and was determined this time to visit. It required a few back and forths, but finally I turned into the “Savannas Preserve State Park, Evan’s Creek.”
There were no signs of people. I put a few dollars into the state payment box and tore off the lip of the baby-blue envelope to hang on my mirror.
“Wow. This is cool I thought. I’m finally here.”
I noticed a sheriff car. I drove down a winding road through the middle of Florida scrub and what was perhaps once pine flatwoods. As in all Florida, drainage and development has altered the landscape but here there was plenty of “Old Florida” remaining. I felt relaxed and a hundred miles away from civilization!I drove slowly hoping to see a gopher turtle, noticing a sign to share the road.“This is amazing,” I thought. Once, all along US1 was scrub habitat. Think of all the animals. Think of all the birds. Think of the Native People. Think of the pioneers who where the first to clear this land…
I saw beautiful white sand, pine trees, woodpeckers, and little sparrow like birds I didn’t know. I saw sand pines and slash pines. One slash pine so large I wondered if it had escaped the loggers and turpentine men. I turned my head to see an osprey gliding over the savannas.
Finally, I made it down to the end of the road, maybe a half mile or so, and there was a cul-de-sac and neatly folded information under a shaded area.
“Oh my gosh” I thought, “I’m at the river. I’m at the North Fork of the St Lucie River!”
I guess I knew that, but I certainly wasn’t thinking I was that close to the north fork every time I drove down busy US1 to Stuart. Somehow with all the cars, with all the noise, with all the technology, with all the billboards, it seemed much further away.
I parked, got out of the car, and walked around. I looked in the tannin waters. I thought about how great it was that no houses were here. “All these years; my whole life really, and I have never visited this place! Incredible.” It was so good to see fish jumping and wading birds hunting in almost total privacy. And for people there was a great canoe/kayak launch. As I walked back towards my car, I couldn’t believe my luck. A gopher turtle was happily eating along the dunes. I pondered the passage of time knowing this gopher’s ancestors also ate from these dunes, hundreds of thousands of years ago when they were islands in an inland sea…