Map to Ribault Monument
Parking: Free; no entrance fee. There are about 25 paved parking places including at least one handicap space. The park is open from 9:00AM to 4:45PM daily.
Trails: None. There is a short handicap boardwalk ramp that winds from the parking lot to the overlook. It’s less that 50 yards long but does cut through a small patch of great coastal hardwood hammock.
Facilities: None. There are a few places to sit (pictured below).
The Dailey Birder’s Tips: Patience is a virtue here. It provides a stunning view overlooking the St. Johns River and Timucuan Preserve. On a clear day you can see north to Big Talbot Island.
Target Species: American White Pelican, American Avocet, Long-billed Dowitcher, Roseate Spoonbill, Yellow-throated Warbler.
The Ribault Monument is part of the National Park Service and commemorates the landing of Jean Ribault in the area. It sits atop St. Johns Bluff and is one of the highest natural places in Northeast Florida. It is an extremely small place, consisting literally of the parking lot, a set of concrete steps, and an area roughly the size of someone’s back porch atop the bluff.
Like I mentioned before, patience is a virtue here. Set up your scope like I’ve pictured above and just relax. Patience and a stationary count will certainly reward your soul. The view is gorgeous, there is considerable shade, and you will see a lot of birds. I’ve found that most other visitors that find their way to this hidden gem are quite kind and usually interested in what you’re doing. Take the time to make someone a birder!
On a typical visit in any time of year you can expect to tally at least 30 species, and in early spring or fall you can expect anywhere from 40-65! In fact, on 28 February 2016, Roger Clark and I recorded a whopping 66 species here just doing a stationary count.
Be sure to scan the spoil area to the bottom right of the overlook; this is a great location to get hard-to-find species like Long-billed Dowitcher, American Avocet, and Green-winged Teal. You can also make out a variety of shorebirds, which vary depending on the season and state of the spoil (it’s often being worked and changing shape). Listen for songbirds in season; Yellow-throated Warbler, Northern Parula, Painted Bunting, White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireos can be quite noticeable and in full song in spring and summer. In winter, listen for Belted Kingfisher and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
Otherwise, just scan the sky, St. Johns River, and in the distance the saltmarshes of the Timucuan Preserve. The two lane road you will see across the river is Heckscher Drive/A1A. If you visit during low tide, it will increase your odds of seeing waders and shorebirds in the river and the saltmarsh. In summer, Roseate Spoonbill should be an easy find and will stand out in your scope.