Just south of Daytona Beach, Ponce Preserve Municipal Park stretches from the banks of the Halifax River to the Atlantic Ocean. Protecting a cross section of pristine barrier island habitat, the 41-arce park is located a stone’s throw from the beach where auto racing was born. Ponce Preserve features two nature-themed playgrounds, a covered pavilion with picnic tables, a restroom facility, elevated boardwalks, hiking trails, observation towers, and the Green Mound State Archaeological Site.
A mound or “midden” is essentially a prehistoric dump site composed of shells, bones, pottery shards, and other artifacts that were cast aside by the Timucuan Indians over many generations. The composition of the midden caused many pre-Columbian artifacts to be preserved over the ages. Archaeological surveys of the mound revealed a vertical chronology of the Native Americans who constructed it between 800 and 1600 CE. In fact, the very formation of the midden signified the shift from a nomadic to a sedentary lifestyle as the mound was created from the shellfish diet that allowed the population to flourish in the area for hundreds of years.
The vertical timeline also enabled archeologists to uncover how the lifestyle of the tribes changed over time. Excavations in this midden have uncovered evidence of a village, including fire pits and postholes marking the corners of raised houses within the layers of preserved mollusks. Within the tribe’s hierarchical society, the most important members, like chiefs or religious leaders, resided at the top of the mound.
Green Mound once rose more than 50 feet above the surrounding landscape but erosion and the short-sighted removal of material to construct a road in 1922 has since reduced the mound’s original height to 30 feet. Laws are now in place to protect these important historic sites for future generations.
The terrain surrounding the Green Mound State Archaeological Site is varied, ranging from ocean dunes, terraced palmetto patches, and maritime hammocks to wetlands adjacent the Halifax River. You’ll find many of our native plants in the Preserve including Florida lantana, southern red cedar, cabbage palms, Simpson’s stoppers and oak trees. At the base of the Green Mound is a live oak estimated to be more than 350 years old. The Preserve has been added to the East Section of the Great Florida Birding Trail and is an excellent site for bird watching.
The park offers a variety of hiking opportunities. You can climb to the summit of the shell mound, venture out on a 1/3 mile boardwalk that extends out to the Halifax River, walk through a natural hardwood hammock and palmetto scrub, or explore the coastal dune system that parallels the beach. The park’s varied topography provides a nice sense of balance for hikers of all abilities. Half the trails feature steep climbs and dips while the other half is entirely wheelchair accessible.
Most of the park’s features and amenities can be accessed directly from the parking lot on South Peninsula Drive including the covered pavilion, restroom building, kayak and canoe launches, river boardwalk, Green Mound, and most trailheads. The wildlife observation tower and second playground can be found a short distance away along a well-maintained trail. The boardwalk linking the park to beach is easily accessed from the Preserve’s second parking lot on South Atlantic Avenue.
Funding for Preserve’s development was provided by the Ponce de Leon Inlet & Port District of Volusia County and the Florida Inland Navigation District. The Garden Club of Ponce Inlet provided the benches throughout the park and landscaping at the entrance island. The Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program and Volusia ECHO grants funded construction of the recreational facilities.
Park Amenities Include:
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Description Source: Town of Ponce Inlet, Florida Hikes.com