West of the St. Johns River sits is crater-like ravine formed some thousand years ago. Today, nestled in the downtown area of Palatka, it’s home to more than 100,000 azaleas that bloom from late January through April each year.
The gardens were commissioned in the 1930s as a joint effort between the Works Progress Administration, the City of Palatka and private individuals. The New Deal Era led to the creation of an additional eight parks statewide, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Of the nine, Ravine Gardens State Park was the only formally designed landscape. A 1.8-mile road circles the ravine, with hiking trails throughout. About 250,000 ornamental plants – such as palms, bamboo, azaleas, and Japanese magnolias – were planted.
Azaleas, known as the royalty of the garden, were chosen to be the most prominent plant. Their vibrantly colored flowers bloom each spring, bringing an increased number of tourists.
Ravine Gardens State Park, located at 1600 Twigg St., is open year-round from 8 a.m. until sundown.
All photos taken by WUFT photographer Aubrey Stolzenberg.