Power Plant Implosion

Note: If you want to just jump to the video of the implosion, click here!

I moved to Jacksonville in 1981 before the St. Johns River Power Plant’s pair of 462 foot tall cooling towers were constructed, but I honestly have a hard time remembering the Jacksonville area skyline without them in the landscape. For the last 17 years, Marie and I have lived off Heckscher Drive so we’ve driven right by them thousands of times and they became a familiar, if not comforting, sight to us.

SJRPP Towers – June 2018. Photo by Marie Dailey

How can massive dull structures like that be “comforting”, you ask? Well, for one thing Marie and I have done an awful lot of kayaking in the marshes of the Timucuan Preserve, and it can be easy to get disoriented out there in the little finger creeks where the marsh grass is twice as high as you are sitting down in the kayak. We came to rely on the towers to be our “north star” of sorts and getting eyes on them was a perfect way to re-orient oneself to where you’re heading.

Our north star(s). March 2006.

In the image from 2006 above, you can see how even at a great distance the towers were about the only landmark when out on the waters of the Timucuan Preserve. We could always see them anywhere from downtown to Cedar Point to Fort George Island to the Intracoastal waterway.

December 23, 2005. Cooling towers selfie.

I came to love the structures so much that I even took a rare selfie back in December 2005 from my kayak before the term “selfie” was even a thing!

Here’s another tranquil image from the water, circa 2005.

Towers and the kayak. Circa 2005.

Last year when I got my new 500mm lens, I swung by the plant to take some architectural photos and would like to share the one below because it’s a level of detail most people were not able to see (without at least looking through binoculars). Look at the little ladder/landing to the top right of the image along the rim; that should give you some perspective as to how massive these towers were. Picture yourself standing there and how small you’d look in this image!

Top of the SJRPP Tower. Winter 2017.

So flash forward to yesterday morning, where we obtained VIP passes to be on the power plant property along with the plant retirees who spent their careers working at this great facility. It was a beautiful morning and Marie captured a few last shots before the demolition.

SJRPP Towers. 16 June 2018.
SJRPP Tower. 16 June 2018.

The actual demolition was a “bucket list” experience and I can’t really describe the full-body percussion experienced when the dynamite exploded. The closest I think I’ve felt something similar was at a Deftones concert years ago in a small club where the bass player opened the show with a protracted “brown note”. 🙂

Yes, this brief post is nostalgic, and no, it doesn’t contain any information about birds even though this is a website about birds – but I wanted to share some images and thoughts about the end of this era. Our landscape has changed. I think I’ll go have a cookie.

SJRPP Cookie and Pass. 17 June 2018.


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