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article imagePhoto Essay: Fountain of Youth Park Celebrates 500th Anniversary Special

By Kay Mathews     Sep 16, 2013 in Travel
Saint Augustine - The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is commemorating the 1513 arrival of Ponce de León in Florida and the legend of the Fountain of Youth. The lush grounds, exotic birds, and water from the spring are sure to please modern-day adventurers.
In 1460, Juan Ponce de León was born into a noble, but poor, family in San Servas, Spain. When he was young, he became a soldier and received an education in fighting skills, religion, and manners.
It is said that Ponce de León "may have accompanied Christopher Columbus on his 1493 voyage to the New World." And, according to Bio., "Years later, after suppressing an Indian uprising in Hispaniola (comprising modern-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Ponce de León was named the provincial governor of the eastern part of the country."
In 1508 the Spanish crown sent Ponce de León on an expedition to nearby Puerto Rico in search of gold. He explored the island, settled near what is now called San Juan, later returned to Hispaniola, and was then named governor of Puerto Rico. Due to a political conflict, King Ferdinand stripped Ponce de León of his title in 1512 but granted him permission "to discover and settle the island of Bimini, which was believed to lie somewhere to the northwest."
After hearing stories from Indians about a "famous body of water that was said to have the power to restore youth to the aged," and interested in the prospect of discovering the "fountain of youth," which may be located on Bimini, Ponce de León set sail from Puerto Rico in March 1513.
"The following month," according to History.com, "the expedition landed on the coast of what is now Florida, near the site of modern-day St. Augustine." National Geographic states, "In St. Augustine, the oldest city in the U.S., there's a tourist attraction dating back a century that purports—albeit in a tongue-in-cheek way—to be the fountain of youth that Ponce de Leon discovered soon after he arrived in what is now Florida in 1513."
Statue of Juan Ponce de Leon at the entrance to Ponce de Leon s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Par...
Statue of Juan Ponce de Leon at the entrance to Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. St. Augustine, Fla. 9/9/13
The entrance to that tourist attraction, called Ponce de León's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, is located at 11 Magnolia Avenue. Spanish moss-draped live oak trees have formed an arch over Magnolia Avenue to welcome visitors. Once at the entrance, commemorative tickets were issued that read:
Ponce de León's
World Famous
Fountain Of Youth
A Florida Historic Landmark
500 Years of Discovery
1513 ~ 2013
The park's website features an announcement of the "500th Anniversary" and a map for visitors has a sticker on it announcing the "500 Year Anniversary."
It was late in the afternoon when I arrived at the park, just an hour before the 6:00 p.m. closing time. Seeing, and drinking from, the legendary "Fountain of Youth" was my main purpose for visiting the park so I headed toward the Fountain of Youth Spring House exhibit.
Before reaching it, however, I found myself distracted by beautiful, colorful peacocks, and later learned that the park "boasts a muster (or flock) of nearly 30 Indian peafowl."
Peacock at Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.  St. Augustine  Fla.  9/9/13
Peacock at Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. St. Augustine, Fla. 9/9/13
Peacock at Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. St. Augustine  Fla. 9/9/13
Peacock at Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. St. Augustine, Fla. 9/9/13
Peacock at Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. St. Augustine  Fla. 9/9/13
Peacock at Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. St. Augustine, Fla. 9/9/13
White peacock at Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. St. Augustine  Fla. 9/9/13
White peacock at Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. St. Augustine, Fla. 9/9/13
One of the park employees saw me photographing the peacocks and suggested that I look near some shrubs where a a mother peahen was teaching her chick how to forage. The chick stayed near its mother continuously and mimicked her every move.
Peacock chick at Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. St. Augustine  Fla. 9/9/13
Peacock chick at Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. St. Augustine, Fla. 9/9/13
Finally, though, I made my way to my original destination - "the Fountain of Youth" - where I drank a number of cups of water from the spring.
Entrance to the Fountain of Youth Spring House at Ponce de Leon s Fountain of Youth Archaeological P...
Entrance to the Fountain of Youth Spring House at Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. Saint Augustine, Fla. 9/9/13
According to the park, "The spring issues forth directly from the Floridan aquifer, which lies belowground under much of North Florida. The water contains over 30 minerals and the spring have been the perfect replenishment site for Juan Ponce de Leon's ships upon landing on Florida's shores 500 years ago."
Water flowing in the  Fountain of Youth Spring House at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.  ...
Water flowing in the Fountain of Youth Spring House at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. St. Augustine, Fla. 9/9/13
Stone sign in the Spring House at Ponce de Leon s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.  The Spring...
Stone sign in the Spring House at Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. The Spring House is a beautiful 60-year old coquina building that encompasses the original spring that was recorded in a seventeenth century Spanish land grant. 9/9/13
Cups of water from the Fountain of Youth in the  Fountain of Youth Spring House at the Fountain of Y...
Cups of water from the Fountain of Youth in the Fountain of Youth Spring House at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. St. Augustine, Fla. 9/9/13
Feeling refreshed and, in my mind at least, youthful, I wanted to discover more of the park before it closed. My eyes locked upon a statue of a Native American with a spear in hand, and a plaque at the base of the statue read: SATURIWA WAS THE MAIN CHIEF OR "CACIQUE" OF THE TIMUCUA TRIBE IN THIS REGION INCLUDING THE INDIAN VILLAGE OF SELOY LOCATED HERE WHEN SPANISH EXPLORER PEDRO MENENDEZ LANDED IN 1565. THE TIMUCUA SUCCESSFULLY LIVED HERE FOR 4000 YEARS AND HELPED THE SPANISH ESTABLISH THE FIRST PERMANENT EUROPEAN SETTLEMENT IN AMERICA ON THIS SITE WHICH BECAME KNOWN AS ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA.
Statue of Saturiwa who was the main chief or  cacique  of the Timuca Tribe.   Fountain of Youth Arch...
Statue of Saturiwa who was the main chief or "cacique" of the Timuca Tribe. Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. St. Augustine, Fla. 9/9/13
With little time left, I gazed at the lush park and had time to look at a few of the large jars scattered across the park. The description of the jars read: The Large Clay Jars Placed About The Grounds Are Early Spanish Water Urns Called "TINAJONES." They Were Placed Under The Eaves of Houses To Catch Rainwater And Were Buried Halfway Underground To Keep The Water Cool. They Are Made of Fired Baked Clay, Weight 800 Pounds And Are Over 300 Years Old.
Large clay jars placed about the grounds of the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park are early Span...
Large clay jars placed about the grounds of the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park are early Spanish water urns called "TINAJONES." St. Augustine, Fla. 9/9/13
Large clay jars placed about the grounds of the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park are early Span...
Large clay jars placed about the grounds of the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park are early Spanish water urns called "TINAJONES." St. Augustine, Fla. 9/9/13
In the distance, I saw the watchtower amid the palm trees near Mantanzas Bay.
The Watchtower at Ponce de Leon s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.  St. Augustine  Fla.  9/9/1...
The Watchtower at Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. St. Augustine, Fla. 9/9/13
It was, however, time for Ponce de León's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park to close. So, as Ponce de León did in 1521, I will return one day to Florida and experience more of what the park has to offer including the Navigator's Planetarium and Shipwreck Exhibit. And, of course, take a few more drinks from "The Fountain of Youth." The Spring House website states, "The Spring House holds Ponce de Leon's Spring of Eternal Hope, flowing forth for centuries. Do you believe?"
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