Description - A steep ravine was created by freshwater springs flowing from beneath the sandy ridges that flank the west shore of the St. Johns River, Florida's largest east coast river. As time passed, grasses, shrubs and trees colonized the slopes of the ravine.
The 59 acre gardens were created in a natural steephead ravine by the City of Palatka, local citizens, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Federal Works Project Administration and the Civil Works Administration in the 1930s. Described in the 1934 Florida Municipal Record as the "Nations Outstanding Civil Works Administration Project," the 59 acre ravines were planted with over 95,000 azaleas including 64 varieties, 11,000 palm trees and more than 250,000 ornamental plants. The gardens were maintained by the City of Palatka until the park was deeded to the State of Florida in 1970. One of nine Florida state parks with New Deal Era structures, Ravine Gardens is the only park with a formal designed landscape. The extensive fieldstone terraces, rock gardens and massive cypress building construction are typical of the era. The Court of States and 64 foot obelisk dedicated to Franklin D. Roosevelt is located near the park entrance.
- Ravine Gardens State Park has long been famous for its extensive plantings of azaleas and other ornamental plants. Recreational uses are generally passive, related to the aesthetic enjoyment of the gardens. Park programs emphasize interpretation of the park's natural and cultural attributes.
Active recreational uses include picnicking, jogging, hiking and biking. Recreation facilities include picnic areas, the ornamental gardens, numerous hiking trails and a 1.8 mile paved perimeter loop road popular with hikers and bicyclists. A parcours trail also roughly parallels the paved perimeter loop road with exercise stations along the route. A park civic center complex is available for meetings, weddings and special events. The gardens, perimeter road, hiking trails and civic center are the focus for much of the park's visitation.
There are numerous sites along the 1.8 mile paved ravine perimeter road to picnic. Picnic tables and grills are available at no additional charge. Stairways and trail access into the ravines are located near each picnic area.
Recreation - Hiking, biking and picnicking are the recreations enjoyed at this unusual city garden. An annual azalea festival shows off the famous blossoms each year. Hayrides, entertainment, concessions, and local nursery vendors converge for a fun-filled weekend.
Climate - Summers in northeastern Florida are hot and humid with frequent afternoon thunderstorms. Summer temperatures average in the low 80's Fahrenheit (27 - 28 Celsius). Mild winter temperatures average below 52 degrees Fahrenheit (below 11 Celsius). Freezing temperatures are infrequent but windy conditions are common. The average precipitation for the northeast area is between 52 and 56 inches per year. Light, loose fitting clothing is recommended in spring, summer and fall. Layered clothing is recommended for winter. Biting insects are common throughout the year and are especially heavy from late April through early June.
Ravine State Gardens is located in the historical southeastern section of Palatka, Florida. Signage is good throughout the town directing you to the garden's gates found along Twigg Street, near the river.