The tidal salt marsh and islands that make up The Nature Conservancy's Machaba Balu Preserve look much the same today as they did more than 500 years ago when Europeans first settled here. The name Machaba Balu, Timucuan for “saved” or “preserved” “marsh,” honors the cultural and historical significance of the preserve’s location.
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Lying within the vast estuary that stretches between the St. Johns River and Nassau Sound in northeast Florida, the preserve provides a haven for a variety of wildlife species. It was protected as part of the Conservancy's St. Marys River/Sea Islands large-scale conservation project.
Download a map of Machaba Balu Preserve.
Northeast Jacksonville, about 30 minutes from downtown.
The coastal habitats of Florida contain a significant and under-recognized element of biodiversity. Most of the preserve is composed of tidal saltmarsh, which acts as a nursery for the region's important fisheries and serves as spawning ground for commercial and recreational fish species. It is also a critical feeding and breeding area for many wading birds and shorebirds, several of which are listed as threatened or as species of special concern. This community is highly threatened by pervasive coastal development in northeast Florida.
To date, the Conservancy has helped protect almost 10,000 acres in this region. Protected areas include a large expanse of tidal saltmarsh and more than 77 islands that are being managed in partnership with the National Park Service.
The preserve protects approximately 10,000 acres of tidal salt marsh and 77 maritime hammock, pine and shell islands ranging in size from less than a half acre to 30 acres. The preserve is situated adjacent to many other protected lands and the Great Florida Birding Trail. The area has excellent opportunities for exploration by kayak and canoe. Several kayak outfitters in the area along Heckscher Drive/A1A offer kayak rentals and guided tours.
Visitors can access the preserve from the Sister's Creek boat ramp on Heckscher Drive. The preserve area can be accessed from other points, but this is the most convenient and centrally located access point for boats. Kayaks and canoes can also be launched at the Ft. George River located approximately 2 miles north of the Mayport Ferry terminal on A1A (on the south side of the bridge).
From Downtown Jacksonville:
From Fernandina Beach and points north:
From Jacksonville Beach and points south: