Green Cove Springs is a city located along the west bank of the historic St. Johns River and since 1871 has served as the County Seat of Government for Clay County, Florida. The city’s name originates from the three physical characteristics. “Green” refers to the perennially green vegetation characterized by its tree scape and foliage. “Cove” refers to a bend in the St. Johns River creating a safe area for mooring of boats during inclement weather periods. “Springs” refers to the natural spring (one of 600 in Florida), originating from the “Floridan Aquifer” with an estimated flow rate of approximately 2,200 gallons per minute. The spring water flows into the west side of the municipal swimming pool and then flows out the east side forming a stream eventually emptying into the St. Johns River.
The first development of the area to become Green Cove Springs was by George I. F. Clarke in 1816 from land he received from a Spanish Land Grant. Mr. Clark used the land for construction and operation of a lumber or sawmill for harvesting of Live Oak trees.
During the late 1880’s, the town experienced great prosperity as evidenced by the large number and quality of hotels constructed near the spring and surrounding area. The medicinal qualities of the spring and tropical climate of the area during the winter months made Green Cove Springs a popular vacation destination.
In July 1998, President Clinton, signed legislation designating the Historic St. Johns River as an “American Heritage River”. This historic river was and remains a desirable focal point for growth of the community and serves as a major component for recreational amenities and transportation opportunities related to commercial, industrial, and residential developments.
The City is experiencing a rebirth or resurgence of tourism opportunities attributed to the Historic St. Johns River evidenced by visits from American Cruise Lines’ Great Rivers of Florida Cruises. In addition, and most recently, the Annabelle Lee Riverboat, from Jacksonville (Jacksonville River Cruises) is moored at the City’s Pier offering public and private picturesque dinner and special event cruises along the St. Johns River. Both American Cruise Lines and the Annabelle Lee represent a symbolic reoccurrence of the community’s past heritage as a prominent riverboat destination.