Would you agree 2021 seems a lot like 2020? The more stressful our lives become, the more we need to take time to relax. Even a three hour get-away can work wonders. My recent trip on a St. Johns riverboat increased my awareness of the soothing effect of water. Did you know contact with water can help people feel happier, calmer, and more creative? Hmm… maybe that’s why we get some of our best ideas in the shower.
Some rivers are known for their length, others for their exciting rapids. The St. Johns River boasts of neither. However, it holds the title of the laziest river in the world. Remember your elementary science classes? Water flows along the path of least resistance. In Florida the path of less resistance is found between Indian River County in the south and Jacksonville in the north. The St. Johns is twenty seven feet higher at its source compared to its mouth. This slow moving river drops one inch per mile over the course of three hundred ten miles. No wonder white water rafters look elsewhere for thrills.
In spite of its laziness, throughout history the St. Johns has given rise to an abundance of activity. The river was one of the earliest routes used by Europeans to explore Florida. During the Civil War, the Union Navy operated steamboats up and down the river to carry out attacks on Confederate forts. After the war, riverboats carried wealthy tourists south for fun in the sun. Throughout the nineteenth century paddle wheelers moved produce from Florida farms to northern states.
Today, the Barbara Lee is the only authentic riverboat sailing the St. Johns River. The ship was built in 1986 and refurbished in 2012. Unlike the steamboats of the past, the Barbara Lee uses diesel engines to turn the massive paddle wheels.
We boarded the Barbara Lee at its port in Sanford for a lunch cruise. (By the way, the dining room is air-conditioned.) The food tastes great and the service is superb. Above the dining room, we relaxed on the deck and marveled at the natural beauty of the river.
Standing on the deck, I felt miles away from the problems of the world. Rivers seem so sure of themselves. They have no doubt they will reach their destination. I felt linked with nature, connected to the past, and renewed in my spirit.
Travelers looking for alligators may want to select an evening cruise. The water temperature averages eighty-five degrees in August. Our guide told us during the summer the gators seek cooler temperatures at the bottom of the river. At night the reptiles are more active. When the gators swim across the surface of the water their eyes cast an eerie glow. How spooky!
Click here to learn about the many cruises offered by the St.Johns Rivership Company.