William visited Drayton Island several times during his travels up and down the St. Johns River both with his father (See Bartram Trail Site 24) and during his solo trip. As previously mentioned, various records indicate that he made two trips up-river from Spalding’s Lower Store to Lake Berresford in 1774 however, in Travels the two experiences are combined and described as a single trip. In this account of his journey, he describes stopping and camping at Drayton Island both during his upstream journey and on the return trip. The first stop on the Island was unplanned and in response to a tempest arising from the west as he attempted to cross Lake George. He describes passing by and then returning to Drayton Island and finding an excellent harbor near the south promontory the Island (Travels p. 102) (Figure 2). Given these conditions, the group would likely have anchored on the south east shore in the shelter of the Island. In his Travels, William describes making use of the time waiting out the storm to explore what he described as “the greater part of the island.”
In Travels he describes stopping and making camp again on the Island during his return trip north. In this account, his route originated at Salt Springs in the morning, crossed Salt Cove at the northwest corner of Lake George and made landfall at Rocky Point at the northwest entrance of the St. Johns River. After conducting a brief exploration of the area around the Point, his route continued up the west channel of the St. Johns towards Mount Royal but stopped on Drayton Island where he established his camp and spent the night (Figure 3). This would likely have been the same spot where he camped with his father in January 1766.
The account of his visits to Drayton Island recorded in his Report vary considerably from those provided in his Travels. In his Report (p 151), William describes leaving Mt. Royal on his first trip up the St. Johns and passing by “Draiton Isle” only to return to the Island after encountering a gale and thunder clouds arising from the southwest. While this much of his account is quite similar to that published in his Travels, it makes no mention of having explored the Island before continuing up-river the following day. In describing his return from his first trip south, his Report describes a route which coasted along the east shoreline of Lake George and passed by the Island without stopping (p. 154).
In the account of his second trip up the St. Johns recorded in his Report, he passed by Drayton Island without stopping as he headed south onto Lake George and was promptly forced up Salt Springs Run due to high winds. It was during this second upstream trip that he describes proceeding up Salt Springs Run to the Spring (page 161) before continuing south. During his return from this second trip up the St. Johns (page 163), he describes visiting today’s Silver Glen Springs (which he calls Johnsons Spring) and from there sailing directly to Drayton Island where he collected plants and seeds, but left the Island before nightfall. In this account, he left Drayton Island and sailed across the River to a “rocky promontory” (most likely Rocky Point) but finding the shoreline too rocky and the Lake too rough to land, continued around the point to a sheltered cove (Salt Cove) where he landed and set up camp for the night. He described spending the following morning exploring the Point and after finding some interesting plants, continuing his sail north arriving at Spalding’s Lower Store without having made any additional stops along the way (p. 163) (Figure 4).
Regardless of the sequence of events surrounding William’s visits to Drayton Island in 1774, it is apparent that the Island was a favorite of William having been visited and used as a campsite several times during his various journeys up and down the St. Johns River. William Bartram spent a good deal of time on the Island exploring the area and recording his observations on its natural history, flora and fauna. His descriptions of the remains of ancient Indian village and mound are interesting but today’s Island has no such remains nor any land forms that afford a view of the Lake, the east and west shorelines, the bay, cape and Mount Royal all from one vantage point, as Bartram described.
Drayton Island has no bridge connecting it to the main land, however a ferry serves the Island providing vehicular access across the east channel of the St. Johns from Georgetown to the north side of the Island. The privately owned and operated ferry has a limited and varied schedule which is posted at the ferry landing and available through the Putnam County website. At the time of this writing, the ferry operates only on Monday and Friday mornings and evenings and every other Sunday. Anyone planning on visiting the island by this route should check the schedule beforehand and plan their visit accordingly. The Island is privately owned, however there are a few public roads that allow visitors some limited exploration of the island by foot, bike or vehicle.
Bartram Trail Marker 25 is located on the east shoreline of Drayton Island about .6 miles northeast of its southern tip. The shallow waters and aquatic vegetation along the shoreline of the Island in this area make approaching the marker difficult however it is plainly visible from the Lake’s open waters. As with the other Bartram Site Markers on Drayton Island, viewing is by water and the most convenient launch site is the Drayton Island Ferry boat ramp in Georgetown (Figure 6). Parking at the ramp is limited to the roadside and fills up quickly, especially on weekends. Because the Island’s only public access is at the ferry landing and because the Bartram sites are all on private property they cannot be reached by land, but only viewed from the water. Paddlers can also go ashore at the Island’s ferry landing and explore the island on foot but, like those visiting by vehicle or from the ferry, should limit their explorations to the unpaved public roadways.
Resources and Links
Bartram, William. Travels Through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws; Containing An Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions, Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians. Embellished with Copper-Plates. James and Johnson Publishers. 1791. Electronic Edition.
Harper, Francis, ed. The Travels of William Bartram, Naturalist’s Edition. Yale University Press. New Haven. 1958.
Bartram, William. Annotated by Francis Harper. Travels in Georgia and Florida, 1773-74; a report to Dr. John Fothergill. Annotated by Francis Harper. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, n.s., Vol. XXXIII, Pt. II. Philadelphia, PA, 1943.
Florida History Online. New World in a State of Nature; British Plantations and Farms on the St. Johns River, East Florida 1763-1784. May 2013
Bruce, F.W. Assistant Engineer, US Army Corps of Engineers. St. Johns River to Lake Harney, Florida. 1908. The Portal to Texas History. University of North Texas. Nautical Chart of the St. Johns River.
Florida Museum of Natural History. Florida Naturalists. William Bartram. Book of Travels. May 2013
Coordinates A: 29° 20.831’N 81° 38.589’W
Coordinates B: 29° 21.542’N 81° 39.186’W
Coordinates A are those associated with Bartram Trail Site Marker Number 25 near the likely location of the campsite established by William Bartram on the south promontory of Drayton Island used during his first voyage upstream during his travels in 1774. Coordinates B are those proposed for the campsite used by John and William in 1766, which may have been used again by William in 1774. An early map showing Drayton Island and its surrounding bathymetry is presented in Figure 1.