Sunday, April 14, 2013

Gamble Rogers Memorial State Park

                                       Travel Florida in style....

Vintage VW Bus Rentals                     This is one of my top three campgrounds in Florida.  I heavy heartedly write this blog, as this small park is getting harder to get into.  Most people that stay here return often and would like to keep it a secret.  They are the ones with the huge RV's that 'move in' for weeks at a time.  Can I have just one night please???  
Location:  3100 South A1A Flagler Beach, Florida 32136 (386) 517-2086
With our recent trip to Blue Springs State Park we scored a cancellation as we were 
driving to the east coast.  Since it was walk up only their were many people headed
 for the one spot!  We were lucky as we were headed that way anyways and was 
less than 15 minutes away.  
The majority of our customers want to head to the Keys, Everglades or South Beach.  
 Flagler Beach and the surrounding area is one of my favorite spots.  Living in a very congested beach community in the St Petersburg area definitely makes me yearn for wide open spaces. The drive down A1A where you can see the waves crashing on the beach is a pleasant change. 

A1A in Flagler Beach 

Drive to any spot on this wonderful stretch of beach, pop the top and enjoy a nice day at the beach.  These buses are equipped with a two burner gas stove for you to make lunch or clean dishes in your sink with an on board water tank.  Pop the top and take a nap,  hearing the sound of the waves and feeling the breeze of the ocean.

The park's full-facility campground is situated on the dune above the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. 

                        Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway,
                        this windswept park is named for Florida folk singer Gamble Rogers.  

                        18 miles north of Daytona Beach and 30 miles south of St Augustine.  
View from the best campsite at Flagler

Things to do:

The Beach...
The beach is the most popular feature at this park. Visitors enjoy swimming, sunbathing, beach combing and fishing. The daily low tide is an ideal time to observe shore birds feeding in tidal pools. Summer months bring sea turtles that lay their eggs in the golden-brown coquina sand. 
Nice walk way to the beach in front of the bath houses.  Another one located behind the day use.  

 The beach is a great place to catch some waves!  Surfers and wake boarders a like will love the waves that come up in stormy conditions.  But in can be dangorous so beware in that rip currents can form off this beach.
 Boaters and canoeists can launch from a boat ramp on the Intracoastal Waterway. 

On the Intracoastal Waterway side of the park, picnic pavilions provide a shady place to enjoy a meal. 
Hidden back behind the new butterfly garden is a wonderful mile long nature trail.  
It give you a look inside the brush sand dunes you drive by in this area.  It was pleasant on
 a warm afternoon under the shade trees.  You will find two different types of eco systems.  

Scrub and Maritime Forest.

Scrub occurs on sand ridges along former shorelines.  It occurs in many forms, but is often characterized as a closed to open canopy forest of sand pines with dense clumps or vast thickets of scrub oaks and other shrubs.  Typical plants include sand pine, sand live oak myrtle oak, scrub oak, rosemary, ground lichens, hog plum, silk bay, stagger bush, and saw palmetto.  Typical animals include red widow spiders, scrub wolf spider, oak toad, Florida scrub lizard, six lined racerunner, coachwhip, Florida scrub jay, ground dove, loggerhead shrike, yellow-dumped warbler, Florida mouse, and spotted skunk.

 Maritime Hammock occurs on olds costal dunes that have been stabilized long enough for the growth of a forest.  It is characterized as a narrow band of hardwood forest living just inland of the Costal Stand community.  Live oak, cabbage palm, and red-bay generally combine to form a dense, wind pruned canopy whose streamlined profile deflects winds and generally prevent hurricanes from uprooting the trees. 

Sand Oak Trees are a shrub to medium size tree. The tree limbs are sculpted by the wind.  The limbs grow down to support these trees during hurricanes and high winds. These trees along with other plants help to keep the sand dunes stable. 

The Joe Kenner Nature Trail

Joe Kenner was a successful and well respected member of the Florida Park Service Family. He was a native of Dalton, Georgia, he received a B.S. degree from Auburn University in 1959 and after serving four years in the U.S. Coast Guard, he moved to Deland, Florida.  He fell in love with the St Johns River since he first saw it at the age of 13.  He was a fishing guide on the river for six years before he joined the park service as an interpretive Naturalist in 1968.  Later in his career he focused on protecting the manatee and reestablishing the Florida crub Jay population using prescribed  burning.  He worked for the state parks until his death in 1996. 

                             That is great to know!  Makes sense why it is our state tree!  

 A nature trail winds through a shady coastal forest of scrub oaks and saw palmetto.

Another thing that should not be missed at this park is the sunrise.  You have no excuse not to wake up early to see this gorgeous sight.  I never miss a sunrise when I camp here.  Appreciate mother nature at her finest.  


Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach is a state park with history as long as it's name.  
  • 1884-1918  a "Beach House of Refuge" was built on the site by the United States Lifesavings Services.  These were the first attempt by the U.S. government to watch our coast, mainly for hurricanes warnings and rescuig shipwrecks sailors.  Ten of these two story beach house were set up along Florida's coast with a "keeper" and his family.  The building was a hurricane proof type of infirmary for shipwrecked sailors until it was closed in 1918.
  • 1900 - By the turn of the century rolled  around, steamship and gas powered vessels ended the need for the watch houses.
  • 1915 - The United States Lifesaving Service merged with the United States Revenue Cutter System to create the U.S. Coast Guard.  
  • 1942 - 1954 During WWII, the U.S. Army Air Corp established and air warning site to monitor and detect hostile submarine and air activity along this section of Florida's coast. 
  • 1954 - Deeded to the state of Florida.
  • 1968 - The Florida State Parks was awarded the land and it opened as a state park
  • 1991 - This was named after Gamble Rogers, a folk singer.  On October 10,1991 he was camping and in response to a child's plea for help he attempted to rescue a Canadian tourist in heavy surf and riptides of Flagler Beach.  He was unsuccessfully at saving the tourist and lost his life as-well.  The Florida legislator in honor of this Florida Folk singer/guitarist.  After his death he was honored with many awards including a Kiwanis Award for Bravery, a Carnegie Award for heroism, and a Florida Folk Heritage Award.  He was also inducted into the Florida Artist Hall of Fame in 1998.

~ Flowers of Gamble Rogers ~
                                                                          Wild flowers
Oh what a beautiful morning with 'Morning Glory"

Blue Springs State Park

Rent a Vintage ride and travel Florida in style...

This is Skylar 
1988 Vanagon Deluxe

We also have 1979, 1978, 1977 
All are Westfalia Deluxe.

All of the rental sleeper vans are equipped with everything you need for camping.

To create you own, checkout our website at

My renters have visited this park in the past, but I never have.  It is my goal to visit every state, federal, and county park in Floirda and share my experience.  There is so much to see in Florida other than the wonderful beaches.  I am not sure why it took me so long to make it to Blue Springs, but I will be back!!!  

I recommend the Florida State Parks Facebook page.  It is a great source of information on events and activities to get you out and enjoy the Real Florida.   

I had to snap this shot.  Seeing an over sized rubber duck floating down the springs made me smile :)

 While surfing facebook I came across a post with a tree with lights.  Come to find out, it is fireflies, not lights.  Fireflies put on a show for a few weeks every year at Blue Springs.  

When I was a child we called them lighting bugs.  These fireflies seem to be quicker and flash much quicker than I remember.  Unfortunately we do not have them in St Petersburg.  It is a vicious cycle that starts with spraying for mosquitoes  that is harmful in every way.

We went to the white house towards the canoe launch parking lot right before dusk.  We seen a few, but it was not until we started walking around that we could see thousands all through the woods.  It was mothers natures light show and it was amazing!

I will never forget this experience and hope to go back next year during mating season to see it again!  With a great breeze blowing and the moon shining on the water, fireflies aka lighting bugs all around you was a priceless moment. 

The campsites differ.  The majority seemed sunny, with a few shady ones.   Some where on top of a hill (uncommon for Florida) and others slopping down.  The sites were small, but we found #40 to be large with nice shade and great trees.  

Great trail that leads to the bathrooms.  The trails also lead to a paved trail that leads to the springs.  It is nice to walk in the woods and not on the paved street.

I seen my first Florida Scrub Jay!  Our campsite was full of beautiful birds.  The Florida Scrub Jay is found only in Florida scrub habitat.  He seemed, brave and landed right next to the dogs.  It seems he was interested in their food.  

If I had to pick one word other than springs to describe this park, it would be trails.  I love this park!  It has huge oaks, pines,  palm trees, with palmetto palms and huge vines hanging all thru the jungle.  It seems  the only thing missing is Tarzan and the monkeys!

Here is a great picture of an oak tree and palm grown together.  IT looks like the oak tree has an arm around the palm tree. 

I have never seen an arm grown out and wrapped around a tree.  It's obvious the oak tree was here first. 

After walking the trail to the springs, you come out to a large section of the Blue Springs.  To the left they had a area roped off for  Manatees.  We did not see any, but our neighbor had a story about seeing a Manatee the day before.  He seen one, touched it, which is a huge NO at this park!  If you want to swim and touch a manatee, you will need to travel to Crystal Springs for this encounter.

The boardwalk is the length of Blue Springs Run until it pours into the St John's River.  If you take the board walk to the right it will take you up to a shallow area where you can walk to the water head.  Or continue you hike to view the springs head without getting wet.

If you follow the path to the left you will follow the spring run with several look out with benches.  It pass the white house and ends at the canoe launch on the St John's River.

 I waded up the river and seen how shallow and gorgeous it was and Mike sat on the stairs

Mike FINALLY got in.  I found it refreshing!  

These waters are warm compared to the deeper springs.  Being that it is March, we usually wait until the middle of summer when the ocean waters turn warm and the days are hot to enjoy these cool springs.  Living in Florida 80 degrees is the water that feel great to us...

The springs are amazing and on the warmer side of spring water.  The spring run is shallow and you can walk all the way to the trail head.  The water is gorgeous and clear.

You can see how shallow it was.  We did not bring our snorkeling gear on this trip, but I will next time.  It looks like it would be a great place to find fossils.  You can see the boardwalk on top of bank above the springs.

The clear cool shallow water of Blue Springs.

There were many really cool places to walk and explore.  But keep in mind you need shoes!

It has a sand and rock bottom, so I suggest bring a pair of shoes.  My Kinos had to go in the water, but they are handmade in Key West and made out of leather, so they can take it!
 Above is a photo from the canoe launch of the St John's River
Lots of vultures hanging around the river!

 Blue Springs Run before it flows into the St John River
 Talk about river monsters!  This is the end of a palm tree that has fallen into the water.  Looks like something from the movie tremors!

I also enjoy watching the moss blow in the wind.

I could lay here all day looking up at the these old oak and cedar trees with the moss blowing in the wind.

 The White House was home to the Thursbys  family.  At first we assumed it was a story of a rich family living in a huge plantation home, but the history is of great hard ship of survival and living off the land.
Wow, what a wonderful place to live!  But they had it harder than we could image.  

In 1856 Lewis Peach Thursbys moved with his wife Mary Ann and daughter Mary Alice arrived by steamboat from Brooklyn, New York.  They purchased 133 acres and a three bedroom log cabin for four hundred dollars.  For several years they lived in the log cabin and in a more rustic they built during the construction of the house.
1872 Construction began on a new house.  The house was constructed of Georgia Yellow Pine and roofed with hand-split cypress shingles.  Each floor had four rooms that open into a central breeze room.  The kitchen was built on the site of the original log cabin.  The house was built onto of a large indian midden which, when excavated revealed an abundance of Indian cultural artifacts. 

 1880 The Landing was built and Blue Springs became a regular posted stop between Jacksonville and enterprise.
1880's five steamboats a day were running, many stopping at Blue Springs for both fright and tour off at the landing for fright and tourist.
1881 Mule drawn railroad was built from Orange City to Blue Spring linked grooves in Orange City to the Landing.
1886 A larger track was built to replace the primitive one, and the Landing at Blue Springs was connected to the East Coast Railroad.  As time passed the railroad took over passengers and freight.
1910 The Landings were no longer a stop and only four steamboats stopped per week.
 Access of the tour is only the bottom floor.

 The view from the  kitchen window looking out over the lawn towards the springs.


Above is the layout of the land.  It shows an orange groove, which was destroyed in the freeze of 1895.

This is Mary Ann Thursby.  She like many great family was the glue that kept this family together.  She gave birth to 10 kids, 3 which died at birth.  She lost her 4th child while he was playing under the porch he was bitten by a rattle snake.  
 Robert Thursby died after he was bitten by a rattle snake while playing under the porch.

This old oak was hollow and looked burned with a tree growing up its side.  Image how much history this tree has seen.

'The New House' of the Thursby Family

The banks of Blue Springs Run

 Blue Springs Run overlook hold a manatee that was donated from one of our local beach hotels the Siesta, which is Beach front on St Pete Beach.

One of the over looks on the Blue Springs Run.

Male Pileated Woodpecker 

The banks of the St Johns River where Blue Springs Run ends.  This beach is right past the canoe launch.