Address: 11080 Heckscher Drive, Jacksonville, Florida.
Parking: Entrance and parking is free. The parking area is mostly dirt or grass as you can see in the photo above. There are two paved handicap parking places on a concrete pad at the base of the fishing pier and boat dock. There is a paved sidewalk from the handicap spots leading to the covered picnic pavilion.
Trails: There aren’t really any “trails” at this location. There are a few worn paths leading from behind the picnic pavilion into the salt marsh, but they don’t go very far and are usually quite muddy. There is a nice wooden boardwalk that leads to a fishing pier, floating dock, and marsh overlook.
The Dailey Birder’s Tips: Bring sunscreen, insect repellent, and water. There are no permanent facilities here, only a couple of port-o-lets. There is a covered picnic pavilion, but the trash cans around the area are almost always overflowing and quite smelly. I couldn’t imagine really eating lunch or anything there unless I was really desperate.
Target Species: Saltmarsh Sparrow, Seaside Sparrow, Nelson’s Sparrow, Reddish Egret, American Oystercatcher, Gull-billed Tern, Northern Harrier, Roseate Spoonbill.
About: Alimacani Boat Ramp is a small park in the shadow of the foot of the Fort George Inlet bridge. It is a City of Jacksonville operated park, and is open 24 hours a day. There is no entrance fee. I relish finding public signage that has typos and often wonder how they pass inspection, especially when taxpayer money is footing the bill, but the park’s main entrance is spelled “Alamacani” instead of “Alimacani”. Rest assured, it’s the latter.
The boat ramp is extremely popular with jet skiers, kayakers, and people launching small boats, as well as with people interested in fishing the inlet from shore. It can get quite crowded, especially on weekends in spring and summer.
The site used to have a large restaurant and bar on it; if I recall correctly it was called “Bootleggers”. That place has been torn down for at least 16 years now and is just a dirt lot used for parking.
I used to go to Alimacani in the winter, primarily to search for the marsh sparrows behind the pavilion. You can walk out there about 50 yards before getting to the marshy creeks, where all three species of sparrow can be found in winter, along with the occasional Whimbrel. It’s best if you wear some kind of boots, preferably muck or dairy boots, as it’s very muddy. Check this same area in spring and summer for Roseate Spoonbill, Gull-billed Tern, breeding “Eastern” Willets, and a number of other waders.
You can also walk the very short boardwalk and either access the floating dock or the observation deck pictured above. The deck is actually quite a nice perch from which to scan the marshes for Northern Harrier (winter), and Gull-billed Terns (spring and summer).
You can continue to scope Fort George Inlet from the ramp area, which can be quite rewarding. The sandbars can host hundreds, if not thousands of gulls, terns, and shorebirds. Common shorebirds in spring and fall would include Black-bellied Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher, Dunlin, Willet, Semipalmated Plover, Least Sandpiper, and Western Sandpiper. Less common or less abundant shorebirds would include Semipalmated Sandpiper and American Oystercatcher. Expected laridae include Black Skimmer, Royal Tern, Laughing Gull, Herring Gull, and Forster’s Tern.
Since parking at Alimacani is free, it can be an enticing option for those wanting to save a few bucks and are willing to walk to the Talbot Island side of the inlet (where there is a parking fee). There are two paved sidewalks, which lead to either side of the Fort George Inlet bridge. I would encourage you to walk from the parking area, under the bridge and wind your way up on this south side of the bridge. The pedestrian walk is twice as wide on this side of the bridge, and you can scan the interior of Huguenot Memorial Park quite nicely from this side of the bridge.
From the bridge, enjoy the beautiful views of Huguenot Memorial Park and Mayport Naval Station in the distance. Continue walking east, scanning the water and sandbars for shorebirds, gulls, and in winter – ducks and loons.
Once you make it to the other side of the bridge heading towards Little Talbot Island State Park, there is a bench and large paved pad from which to scan the ocean and inlet. From here, you can observe any number of gulls, terns, shorebirds, and pelicans, as well as scan the ocean for jaegers, loons, and migrating sea ducks in winter. Over the years, I’ve seen some incredible species from the spot pictured below, including: Brown Noddy, Red Phalarope, Brown Booby, Parasitic Jaeger, Pomarine Jaeger, Great Shearwater, Red-throated Loon, White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter, and Leach’s Storm-Petrel.
You can continue walking a very nice paved pedestrian/bike path that is well off the road (A1A), where traffic is busy, high-speed, and would be dangerous to be walking. If you stay on the paved trail, you’re perfectly out of harm’s way. It’s a couple thousand steps on up to Little Talbot Island State Park, but you can enter the park on foot for free, and it’s not really too far to visit the permanent, nice restrooms. I recently walked this route from Alimacani all the way to the Talbot restrooms and back, and it was about 7,200 steps according to my Fitbit.
In summary, Alimacani is a great place to stop if you’re looking for a free place to park, see a ton of great coastal species, and have access to the southern end of Little Talbot Island.