St. Mary’s Shoals Park Review

Last Updated on November 23, 2023 by ATVNotes

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St. Mary’s Shoals Park, a 2,568-acre off-road park located in Baker County, Florida, is in the heart of nature, with its lush greenery, crystal-clear waters, and diverse wildlife. From hiking trails winding through dense forests to kayaking adventures along the meandering river, this park offers a host of outdoor activities to keep you hooked in there.

True to it’s name, this park is the spectacular array of shoals that line its shores and create stunning cascades and rapids when water levels are high, making it a favorite spot for whitewater rafting enthusiasts. Those seeking tranquility can also find solace in exploring quieter sections of the shoals.

What you are up to? An adrenaline rush or simply yearning for a peaceful retreat immersed in nature’s beauty? Fit for both, this sprawling park promises an unforgettable experience filled with adventure and serenity.

Location and Routes to St. Mary’s Shoals Park

Located at 10452 US-19 N, Glen St. Mary, FL 32060, it is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. It’s the first thing that comes to mind when planning a trip or looking for a new adventure.

Approximately 2 hours from central Florida, the park is located along Odis Yarborough Road running between CR125 North and Bob Burnsed Road. There are two entrances to the park, one for OHV (off-highway vehicle) users and one for equestrian and pedestrian users. There are two routes from central Florida to St. Mary’s Shoals Park.

Route 1 starts by taking I-75 North to Exit 358 for FL-326 East and Route 2 will start by taking Take I-4 East to I-95 North. The total distance from central Florida to the ark is approximately 183 miles for Route 1 and 226 miles for Route 2. The driving time is approximately 3 hours 19 minutes for Route 1 and 3 hours 25 minutes for Route 2.

St. Mary's Shoals Park

History and Attractive Features

The history of St. Mary’s Shoals Park dates back to the early 1900s. The land was originally owned by a group of timber companies, who logged the area extensively. In the 1970s, the land was purchased by the Florida Department of Natural Resources and designated as part of the Ocala National Forest.

In the early 2000s, the Florida Communities Trust awarded a grant to the Baker County Board of County Commissioners to develop St. Mary’s Shoals Park. The park opened in 2009 and has since become a popular destination for outdoor recreation enthusiasts especially when ATV side (estimated to be of 25 miles according to Rider’s Planet) is added in 2010. The massive size, wide varieties of activities, and the modern amenities available have made it one of the most prominent off-road parks in the

e Sun-shine State.The significance of St. Mary’s Shoals Park lies in its ability to preserve the natural beauty of northeast Florida. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, turkeys, black bears, and bobcats. It also provides a valuable habitat for fish and other aquatic life.

In addition to its natural beauty, St. Mary’s Shoals Park is also significant for its historical value. The park contains a number of historical features, including old logging roads, abandoned homesteads, and a Civil War-era cemetery.

Today, St. Mary’s Shoals Park is a popular destination for camping, hiking, fishing, and boating. The park is also home to a number of educational programs and events. It is a valuable resource for the people of northeast Florida and a reminder of the natural beauty of the region.

Here are some of the specific features and activities that make St. Mary’s Shoals Park a unique and significant place:

  • White sandy shoals: The park is located on the banks of the St. Mary’s River, which has created a series of white sandy shoals. These shoals are a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking.
  • Blackwater swamps: The park is also home to a number of blackwater swamps. These swamps are characterized by their dark, tannin-stained water and their unique plant and animal life.
  • Pine forests: The park is also home to a variety of pine forests. These forests provide habitat for a variety of wildlife, including deer, turkeys, and black bears.
  • Camping: Camping was prohibited in the park but presently it offers a variety of camping opportunities, including primitive campsites, RV campsites, and group campsites.
  • Hiking: The park has a number of hiking trails, ranging from easy to challenging.
  • Fishing: The park is home to a variety of fish, including catfish, bass, and perch.
  • Boating: The park offers boat access to the St. Mary’s River.
  • Riverfront: The park has almost 2 miles of river shoreline along the St. Mary’s River. You can go for a swim, wade in the shallow waters, or relax on the sandy banks. There are also opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing.
  • Educational programs and events: The park hosts a variety of educational programs and events, such as nature hikes, fishing clinics, and stargazing parties.

Like Croom ATV Park in central Florida, St. Mary’s Shoals Park is a big park and a valuable resource for the people of northeast Florida and a reminder of the natural beauty of the region. It is a place where people can come to enjoy the outdoors, learn about nature, and connect with their community.

Fees and Hours in Mary Shoal’s Park

The park offers visitors a natural playground that is both accessible and affordable. This hidden gem welcomes nature enthusiasts without breaking the bank. Whether you’re planning a solo outing to reconnect with nature or organizing a fun family day out, the park offers incredible value for your money.

Furthermore, St. Mary’s Shoals Park provides flexible hours that cater to various schedules and preferences. Early birds can take advantage of the park opening at am, allowing them to witness the stunning sunrise over the scenic Suwannee River. Night owls need not worry either, as the park is open up to 40 minutes before sunset according to a recent report on Clay Today Online – offering ample time to explore its wonders at dusk and revel in Florida’s vibrant wildlife after dark. Here are some highlights for you:

  • The day-use fee is $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and children aged 6-12.
  • Annual passes are also available at $30/vehicle and $25 for senior citizens.
  • The park is open year-round from 8:00 AM to sunset.
  • And the said report says that ATV side is open four days a week – Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. 
St. Mary's Shoals Park

Popular Recreational activities & Facilities available

Visiting this park means endless options for recreational activities that will keep both nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts entertained. The park boasts a variety of outdoor experiences to suit every taste and skill level.

So why wait? Plan your trip now and indulge in nature’s playground at its finest!

OHV Trails

Lying in the heart of Florida, St. Mary’s Shoals Park offers outdoor enthusiasts a thrilling adventure with its 24.2 miles of OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) trails. These trails cater to all levels of expertise, whether you’re a seasoned rider or a beginner looking to dip your toes into the exhilarating world of off-roading.

What sets this  park apart from other OHV trail destinations is its diverse landscape. From winding paths through lush forests to steep climbs and descents on rocky slopes, every mile offers a unique challenge and panoramic views that will take your breath away.

Pedestrian and Equestrian Trails

One of the standout features of St. Mary’s Shoals Park in Florida is its impressive network of pedestrian and equestrian trails that span a whopping 22.6 miles. These trails wind through diverse landscapes, ranging from dense forests to open meadows, offering visitors an immersive and exciting outdoor experience. Whether you prefer a leisurely stroll or an exhilarating horseback ride, these well-maintained pathways provide the perfect opportunity to explore the park’s natural beauty.

As you venture along the trails, you’ll have ample opportunities to encounter the park’s fascinating wildlife up close.

Fishing Spots – Ponds, St. Mary River & Ceder Creek

Amidst the lush greenery and scenic landscapes, these ponds offer a serene escape for anglers of all levels. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out with a rod and reel, these ponds provide ample opportunities to cast your line and reel in some impressive catches.

On top of the three ponds in the picture, fishing is also allowed in the St. Mary’s River and Ceder Creek, which run through the park. These rivers are home to a variety of fish species, including catfish, bass, bream, and sunfish.

A fishing license is required for anyone 16 years of age or older who wants to fish in the park. Licenses can be purchased at the park office or online at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website. The fishing hours in the park are from sunrise to sunset.

Here are some tips for fishing in St. Mary’s Shoals Park:

  • Use a light line and small bait, such as worms or crickets.
  • Fish near the edges of the ponds where the water is shallow.
  • Be patient and persistent. The fishing can be slow at times, but it is also possible to catch some big fish.

Pavilions in Mary’s Shoals Park

As you stroll through St. Mary’s Shoals Park in Florida, it’s impossible to ignore the beauty and tranquility of the three pavilions nestled amongst the lush greenery. These architectural gems are not only aesthetically pleasing but also serve as functional spaces for picnics, gatherings, and events.

There are 3 pavilions in St. Mary’s ATV park. One is located at the OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) parking/unloading area, one is located at the EQUI-PED(AL) parking/unloading area, and the third one is located along Shoals Park Road at the Cedar Creek Bridge.

All of the pavilions have picnic tables and grills. They are available to who book earlier – a first-come, first-served basis and you don’t have to reserve formally. One thing to be mindful of is to keep in mind pavilion users when/if are using the amenities.

The pavilions are a great place to relax and enjoy a picnic lunch after a day of riding on the trails. They are also a good place to take shelter from the sun or rain.

Nestled along the picturesque shores of St. Mary’s Shoals Park, the vibrant pavilions have become an iconic feature of this beloved destination. Offering a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, these architectural marvels provide visitors with a shaded haven to unwind and take in the breathtaking views.

Beyond their functional appeal, the pavilions also serve as gateways to unforgettable experiences. As you meander through the park’s scenic trails, each pavilion stands at pivotal locations that offer panoramic vistas of winding rivers or lush woodlands—a photographer’s dream come true.

Restrooms in Mary’s Shoal

One often overlooked aspect of St. Mary’s Shoals Park in Florida is its immaculate restrooms. While restrooms may not be at the top of every visitor’s list of things to see, these facilities are a shining example of the park’s commitment to providing a comfortable and convenient experience for all. Clean, well-maintained, and fully stocked with essential amenities, these restrooms offer a much-needed respite for nature enthusiasts looking to freshen up after a long hike or picnic.

There are public restrooms close to the parking/unloading area. And you will have them both in the EQUI-PED(AL) and OHV sides of St. Mary’s Shoals Park. The restrooms are ADA accessible and have flush toilets, sinks, and mirrors.

The EQUI-PED(AL) side of the park is open 7 days a week from 7am until sunset, except for Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Easter. The OHV side of the park is open from Friday to Monday starting at 8 am and closes 40 minutes prior to sunset, except for the three special days – Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and Easter.

The restrooms are cleaned daily by the park staff. However, it is always a good idea to check the restroom status before you go, especially if you are visiting during a busy time. Here are the directions to the restrooms on each side of the park:

  • EQUI-PED(AL) side: The restrooms are located near the parking area at 7777 Odis Yarborough Road.
  • OHV side: The restrooms are located near the parking area at 7867 Odis Yarborough Road.

St. Mary’s Shoals Water Access

Whether you’re an avid angler, a leisurely swimmer, or simply looking to relax by the waterfront, this park guarantees an unforgettable aquatic experience.

What sets St. Mary’s Shoals Park apart from other parks in Florida is its water access point. There is public access to nearly 2 miles of the St. Mary’s River at St. Mary’s Shoals Park. There is no boat ramp, but you can carry a small un-powered recreational vessel to the river’s edge. The river is tannin-stained, which means it has a dark brown or red color due to the dissolved organic matter in the water. The water is also relatively shallow, with an average depth of 3 feet. Here are some things you can do on the river:

  • Kayaking or canoeing: This is a great way to explore the river and wildlife.
  • Tubing: This is a relaxing way to float down the river.
  • Fishing: There are a variety of fish species in the river, including bass, catfish, and bream.
  • Swimming: There are a few spots along the river where you can swim.

Please note that there are no amenities at the river’s edge, so you will need to bring your own water, snacks, and sunscreen. You should also be aware of the tides and currents before you go.

The entrance fee to St. Mary’s Shoals Park is $5 per vehicle. The park is open from 8am to sunset. Here are the directions to the river access point:

  • From the main entrance to the park, drive about 10 minutes to the Shoals Road entrance.
  • Turn left onto Shoals Road and follow it for about 1 mile.
  • The river access point will be on the left side of the road.

Geocaching in St. Mary’s Shoals

Hidden treasures await those who venture into the scenic wilderness of this off-road heaven in Florida. With its lush forests, sprawling marshes, and sparkling waterways, this nature preserve is not only a haven for outdoor enthusiasts but also an ideal playground for geocaching enthusiasts. Geocaching, often called the world’s biggest treasure hunt, adds an element of excitement to exploring this beautiful park.

Imagine stumbling upon hidden containers tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the park’s trails and rocky outcrops. It’s an opportunity to embark on an adventure that combines outdoor exploration with problem-solving skills – all while discovering incredible natural wonders along the way.

The thrill of geocaching lies not just in finding these carefully concealed caches but also in uncovering unexpected surprises within them. From trinkets left behind by fellow seekers to logbooks filled with messages from previous explorers, each cache holds stories waiting to be told. In a world saturated with technology and virtual experiences, geocaching allows us to experience tangible connections with others while immersing ourselves in nature’s embrace.

Tips for Visiting St. Mary’s Shoals Park

These are expert suggestions from visitors who already have been there several times and hatched some tricks, if applied, able to color your time in this park.

  • Be aware of the weather conditions before you visit. The park can be hot and humid in the summer, and it can be cold and wet in the winter.
  • Wear comfortable shoes that are appropriate for the activities you plan to do.
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks. There are no food or drink vendors in the park.
  • Be respectful of the wildlife and the environment.
  • Be sure to wear comfortable shoes for hiking.
  • Leave no trace.

Does St. Mary’s Shoals Park worth a visit?

After spending a day at St. Mary’s Shoals Park, it becomes clear why it is one of Florida’s hidden gems. The park offers an array of breathtaking natural landscapes that captivate the senses and provide a serene escape from reality. From the sparkling blue waters of the Amelia River to the lush greenery that surrounds the walking trails, every corner of this park exudes tranquility.

One cannot help but feel a sense of wonder while exploring the many hidden coves and beaches dotting the shoreline. These secluded spots invite visitors to dip their toes in the water or simply sit back and soak in the beauty around them. The park also boasts an impressive variety of wildlife, including ospreys soaring above, turtles basking in scattered sunlight, and colorful birds flitting in between trees. It truly is a nature lover’s paradise.

Whether you are seeking adventure or simply wish to disconnect from everyday life for a moment, this park provides an unforgettable escape into nature’s wonders.

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