Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve
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|Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve|
|GTM Research Reserve|
IUCN category IV (habitat/species management area)
Environmental Education Center
Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve - Map
|Location||St. Johns and Flagler counties, Florida, United States|
|Nearest city||St. Augustine|
|Area||73,256 acres (29,646 ha)|
In 1999, the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM Research Reserve) was designated in St. Johns and Flagler counties, Florida as a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) system. The GTM Research Reserve represents the east Florida sub-region of the Carolinian bioregion. It is one of 29 NERRs in 23 states and one territory. GTM is one of three NERRs in Florida, and is administered on behalf of the state by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Florida Coastal Office as part of a network that includes forty-one aquatic preserves, three NERRs, a National Marine Sanctuary, the Coral Reef Conservation Program and the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council.
The GTM Research Reserve boundary encompasses 73,256 acres along the Guana, Tolomato and Matanzas rivers, and the Atlantic Coast. Its mission is "to achieve the conservation of natural biodiversity and cultural resources by using the results of research and monitoring to guide science-based stewardship and education strategies." The GTM Research Reserve was officially designated on August 19, 1999.
A portion of the GTM Research Reserve north of St. Augustine, Florida was formerly known as Guana River State Park. The upland areas include pine flatwoods, maritime hammock, coastal strands and dunes, and mangroves. It is also an important calving ground for the endangered North Atlantic right whale, in addition to being home to aquatic and amphibious wildlife like dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, gopher tortoises, American alligators, indigo snakes and river otters. There are also peregrine falcons, bald eagles, and the endangered Anastasia Island beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus phasma). Diving and wading birds such as brown and white pelicans, wood storks, and roseate spoonbills can also be viewed.
GTM Research Reserve Visitor Center
The GTM Research Reserve Visitor Center is located at 505 Guana River Road in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. It is in the northern component of GTM Research Reserve, ten miles north of St. Augustine on State Road A1A in Ponte Vedra Beach, and serves as the administrative, education, research and stewardship facilities for the northern component of GTM Research Reserve.
The southern component of GTM Research Reserve consists of Pellicer Creek Aquatic Preserve, Faver-Dykes State Park, Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, Moses Creek Conservation Area, Pellicer Creek Conservation Area, Fort Matanzas National Monument, Matanzas State Forest, Princess Place Preserve, The River to Sea Preserve at Marineland, Marsh View Preserve, and other state sovereign submerged lands adjacent to the Matanzas River within its boundary. There is a smaller office building on A1A within the River to Sea Preserve in Marineland.
There are a lot of recreational activities available like hiking, bicycling, fishing, kayaking and canoeing, dog walking, horseback riding, picnicking, bird watching and nature viewing. Amenities include over nine miles (14 km) of nature trails in an unspoiled natural setting. The reserve also contains seventeen archaeological sites, shell middens at Shell Bluff Landing and Wright's Landing, as well as a prehistoric earthen burial mound.
The tract was privately owned and open to the public for hunting and fishing prior to state acquisition. During the period of private ownership, the Guana River was dammed in 1957, to flood the upstream marshes in order to enhance wintering waterfowl habitat. The result was the creation of the present-day Guana Lake. The lake water is brackish near its southern terminus at Guana Dam and gradually turns into a freshwater reservoir as one travels away from the dam. Both saltwater and freshwater fish species exist in the same body of water.
The land was purchased from Gate Petroleum with Conservation and Recreational Lands and Save Our Coast funds by the State of Florida in 1984 and divided into Guana River State Park and the Guana River Wildlife Management Area. In 2004 with the construction of the GTM Environmental Education Center, the management of the state park lands was turned over to the GTM Research Reserve to manage as part of the larger research reserve.
In 2004 the Guana River State Park was acquired by the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve and is now included in the reserve. It is no longer a State Park. The research reserve is located along State Highway A1A, between St. Augustine and Jacksonville. Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway (Tolomato River), the Guana Tract, which includes the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM Research Reserve) and Guana River Wildlife Management Area, comprises some 12,000 acres (49 km2) of public conservation and recreational uplands.