The Forgotten Rivers of Jacksonville

June 18, 2015 11 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The St. Johns River isn't the only river in the River City! Today, Metro Jacksonville's Kristen Pickrell takes a look at Jacksonville's other rivers, while sharing interesting facts about each.

2. Ortega River

The Ortega River Bridge

The Ortega River runs from the west side, near Camp Milton, to the Duval/Clay County line near Orange Park, and up to Ortega, where it runs into the St. Johns River.

Like the Cedar River, the Ortega River has some notable history, too. Right off of the Ortega River is the island of Ortega, which was said to be the “lair” of the outlaw (rumored pirate) Daniel McGirtt. McGirtt came to the area known today as Ortega in 1780, after being court-marshalled on false charges as a rebel troop in Georgia. As a result, McGirtt turned on the Americans, becoming part of the British militia and leading raid parties into rebel plantations. He and his group of men, known as the “Banditti,” started with just cattle, but soon moved to stealing and plundering whatever they could get their hands on. McGirtt was captured and taken to Castillo de San Marco, where he escaped. McGirtt would take to ambushing the Spanish when England ceded Florida, and McGirtt would be arrested in 1785. He made three separate attempts to get back in to Florida, before successfully doing so, where he was then captured and jailed in St. Augustine in 1797. He died shortly after.

The Ortega River is also known for being the recreational boating center of Northeast Florida.  Its “Marina Mile” is a waterfront strip that includes several marinas, boat shops, yacht sales, and similar various other marine-type shops. Ortega Landing is located on this stretch, as is the Lakeside Marina and the Ortega Yacht Club. The Ortega River is also home to the Ortega River Bridge, which is the most frequently opened bridge in Florida, due to the fact that it sits only 7 feet above the water.

3. Arlington River

The Arlington River

The Arlington River is located in Arlington, just south of the Mathews Bridge. The Arlington River crosses under University Boulevard, where it meets Pottsburg and Silversmith Creeks.
On Strawberry Creek, just east of the Arlington River, the remnants of a late 18th century dam remain. In 1795, Florida was under Spanish rule once more, and the Spanish Governor began handing out grants to encourage settlers to the area. The largest of these grants, totaling about 16,000 acres of land over the course of almost 20 years, was given to an Italian named Francois Richard. Richard had a sugar cane plant in the Dominican Republic prior to coming to settling in along Strawberry Creek. Richard’s Plantation, Strawberry Hill, was used as a saw mill and a cotton gin. Richard used almost 250 acres damming and flooding capabilities in Strawberry Creek downstream to Arlington River, which gave the water enough power to operate his mill. The remnants of the dam are the roadbed seen where Arlington Road crosses Strawberry Creek today.

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