The story of the River of Lakes Heritage Corridor National Scenic Byway embodies a unique blend of history, sophisticated contemporary culture, and gorgeous natural Florida.
The Native Americans of the area, the Timucua, referred to the St. Johns River as the “Welaka”, or “River of Lakes.” People as diverse as the Timucua, early Spanish and English settlers, plantation owners, Civil War supply runners, and 1800s steamboat tourists utilized the St. Johns River and surrounding communities for profit, diversion, and survival. Famed botanist William Bartram wrote about the region in the late 18th Century as did James Audubon. Largely undeveloped though the region, the river offers a rare glimpse of how natural, wild Florida looked to the early adventurers.
Today’s explorers continue the story of the river, navigating its waters in tour boats and kayaks; fishing, bird watching or just experiencing its slow-moving waters and Spanish moss-covered trees that line much of its shoreline. Others ride the byway experiencing oak canopied corridors and back road adventures following in the footsteps of those that have come before them. Drivers, cyclists, and motorcyclists travel the corridor enjoying its beauty, extensive network of trails and partaking in community events that celebrate the region’s heritage. These modern explorers experience connected communities, winding canopied roads and the off-the-beaten path experiences that are all part of the region’s personality.