Guana Tolomato Matanzas Research Reserve - Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Guana Tolomato Matanzas Research Reserve - Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Guana Tolomato Matanzas Reserve
A national estuarine research reserve, the GTM
covers 73,352 acres of beautiful and significant
lands in St. Johns and Flagler Counties, Florida.
Guana Tolomato Matanzas
The Atlantic Ocean beaches
of the GTM research reserve
are among the most beautiful
and unspoiled in Florida.
Environmental Education
The reserve's Environmental
Education Center is a great
place for exploring its natural
and cultural history.
Guana Tolomato Matanzas Research Reserve
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Copyright 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Updated: November 15, 2013
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Natural Wonders of Florida
North Atlantic Right Whale
The Atlantic Ocean off the
reserve is the spawning
ground of the North Atlantic
Right Whale, an extremely
endangered species.
Photo: NOAA
Outdoor Recreation
The GTM Reserve is popular
with outdoor enthusiasts who
enjoy beach combing, hiking,
fishing, boating, photography,
birding and more.
Protecting 73,352 acres that stretch from
Jacksonville south to below St. Augustine,
the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Research
Reserve is one of Florida's most outstanding
ecological and cultural preserves.

A national estuarine research reserve, it
takes its name from the Guana, Tolomato
and Matanzas Rivers that flow along the
Florida coast. Commonly called the GTM
Reserve, its main Environmental Education
Center is in Ponte Vedra. An estimated 1.3
million people live within 50 miles of the

The Atlantic Ocean waters off the GTM
Reserve have been the spawning ground of
North Atlantic Right Whale for thousands
of years. Said to have been the "right whale"
for producing whale oil, the huge mammal
was hunted almost to extinction during the
19th century. Whale oil was vital for use in
lighting and heating homes until electricity,
petroleum-based fuels and other new
technologies were developed.

Protected by national law and international
agreement, the population of North Atlantic
Right Whales is slowly growing now, but the
species has diminished to such a point that
only 300-400 are thought to be alive today.

The waters that flow into the Atlantic from the
Guana, Tolomato and Matanzas Rivers are
vital to the spawning grounds of the whales.
They make the long journey down from the
North Atlantic each year to birth their calves
off the Florida and Georgia coasts.

At least 48 other protected animals and 8
protected plant species can be found in the
GTM Reserve, all living within 50 miles of
such cities as Jacksonville, St. Augustine
and Daytona Beach. Volusia County, at the
southern end of the reserve, has grown by
more than 20% in just three years, making
the preservation of GTM lands and waters
even more critical.

The reserve is also vital to the fishing-based
economy of the area. Research based there
helps focus on maintaining populations of 16
different species that are fished or harvested
commercially. Another 18 species are fished
for recreational purposes. The combination
of commercial and recreational fishing is
worth millions in economic benefit to the

Heritage and eco-tourism are among the
fastest growing facets of Florida's tourism
industry. The section of the Atlantic Coast
between Jacksonville and Daytona Beach is
home to
St. Augustine and attracts millions of
visitors each year. The Guana Tolomato
Matanzas Reserve is one of the points of
interest they come to see.

The GTM Reserve's ecological resources
attract visitors who enjoy birding, hiking,
fishing, kayaking and canoing, photography,
beach combing and more. Over 10 miles of
trails are open for use and the reserve also
provides boat launches, boardwalks over the
dunes to the Atlantic beaches and an
Environmental Education Center that is a
great place to learn about the North Atlantic
Right Whale.

Not far from the center, visitors can see sand
dunes that are among the tallest in Florida.
The ones in the Guana River Marsh Aquatic
Preserve area are as much as 35-40 feet
The reserve also includes some of the most
significant historic sites in North America.

The Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon is
thought to have come ashore somewhere
along this coast in 1513, just 21 years after
Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic
to the New World. Ponce de Leon was in
search of the
Fountain of Youth and Florida
commemorated the 500th anniversary of his
arrival in 2013 with Viva Florida 500.

Fort Matanzas National Monument, part of the
GTM Reserve's southern component, is
located on Matanzas Inlet at the southern end
of Anastasia Island. It was here in the fall of
1565 that Spanish soldiers under Pedro
Menendez de Aviles slaughtered more than
200 shipwrecked French solders and sailors.

It was the killing of the French that gave the
Matanzas its name, which translates from
Spanish to "massacre" or "slaughter."

The French were Hugenots (Protestants) and
the Spanish were Catholics. They gave up to
Menendez but balked when he demanded
that they convert to Catholocism. Those who
refused were put to the sword.

Wind, currents and storms have caused the
inlet to drift southward over the years. The
site of the massacre was probably near the
visitor center at Fort Matanzas. The national
monument also preserves the fort for which it
is named.
Please click here to learn more
about the 1565 massacre and Fort Matanzas.

Other heritage sites in the GTM Preserve
include Princess Place Preserve, where
Florida's oldest commercial orange groves
were planted in the early 1800s; Faver-Dykes
State Park, site of the 1817 plantation of Gen.
Joseph Hernandez; and Washington Oaks
Gardens State Park, home to gardens once
owned by relatives of George Washington.

The Environmental Education Center of the
preserve is at 505 Guana River Road, Ponte
Vedra, Florida.
Please click here for more
Pristine Florida Beaches
The beaches of the reserve
look much as they did when
Timucuan Indians and
Spanish explorers walked
these shores hundreds of
years ago.