Guana River State Park, 970 ha
Guana River Wildlife Management Area, 3972 ha

In northeastern St. Johns County, on the barrier island between the Tolomato River (Intracoastal Waterway) and the Atlantic Ocean in northeastern St. Johns County, bordered on the north by State Road 210.
Two adjacent public ownerships purchased in 1984 that protect a large area of coastal habitats. The State Park occupies the southern quarter of the property (north to Guana Dam), while Guana River Wildlife Management Area occupies the northern three-quarters of the IBA. Guana Lake was formed by damming a portion of the Guana River. Beachfront property north and south of the IBA is composed of single-family homesites. The park receives 160,000 recreationists annually, and the Wildlife Management Area receives 13,000 hunters and anglers and 1500 recreationists annually.

This IBA contains 4.2 miles (6.7 km) of undeveloped beach?dune habitats, one of the longest stretches remaining along the Atlantic Ocean. The dunes at Guana River are some of the highest in Florida, with the secondary dunes attaining heights of 20?35 feet (6?10.5 m). ? In 1992, fifty-five ??Anastasia Island? beach mice (Peromyscus polionotus phasma) were reestablished into the dunes; periodic releases of additional mice are undertaken to decrease the threat of inbreeding. ? Three species of sea turtles nest along the beaches: the loggerhead sea turtle, leatherback, and green turtle. Park staff have monitored sea turtle nests since 1987. ? The State Park contains nine natural communities and 17 significant historic or pre-historic cultural sites; an early 19th century Minorcan coquina block well is on the National Register of Historic Places. The region has been inhabited almost continuously for the past 5000 years. Evidence from historical records dating back to 1592 suggests that Guana River was the site of Ponce de Leon's first landing in Florida. ? The Wildlife Management Area protects 13 archaeological and historic sites.

Ornithological Summary

Guana River State Park: significant populations of Endangered and FCREPA species; significant numbers of migrant raptors; and significant natural habitats. Guana River Wildlife Management Area: significant natural habitats.

Since 1997, a raptor watch has been conducted during the same 16-day period from late September through mid-October, and has recorded large numbers of Peregrine Falcons and Merlins. The park also supports breeding Painted Buntings, and is a monitoring site for a color-banding project underway by the U.S. Geological Survey. The Park supports a small colony of Least Terns. Guana River Wildlife Management Area contains a 2315-acre (936-hectare) brackish impoundment, and six freshwater impoundments, managed for waterfowl and other species. Overall diversity of the IBA is 230 native species.

Conservation Issues

offsite development

Guana River State Park: Surveys conducted by park staff since 1994 indicate that there once may have been a significant Least Tern colony at the park. In recent years, only small numbers (25 or fewer pairs) have bred, and fledging success is low, due primarily to wash-out from storm tides. The nesting area is fenced and posted against human intrusion. ? Erosion ?blowouts? have been caused by vehicles and pedestrians crossing the dunes. The largest occur at sites used for vehicular access in the past?vehicles are now prohibited from the park beaches. Pedestrian traffic through the dunes has been alleviated somewhat by the creation of three parking lots with accompanying walkovers across the dunes. As offsite development continues, visitation is expected to increase, and the problem will be magnified. ? Guana River flows south from Guana Dam to the Intracoastal Waterway. Water quality of both the lake and river has been poor in recent years, and shellfishing currently is prohibited. Guana River Wildlife Management Area: increasing offsite development is creating difficulties with habitat management using prescribed fire. Visitor use is increasing.

Ownership

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (Guana River State Park), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Guana River Wildlife Management Area)

Habitat

Guana River State Park: *temperate hammock, *xeric oak scrub, *tidal marsh, *estuarine, *coastal strand, pine flatwoods, freshwater marsh. Guana River Wildlife Management Area: *pine flatwoods, *xeric oak scrub, *tidal marsh, *estuarine, hardwood swamp, cypress swamp, freshwater marsh, lacustrine.

Land Use

Guana River State Park: *conservation, *recreation. Guana River Wildlife Management Area: *conservation, *hunting, recreation.

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