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St john hiking trails: Francis Bay Trail

St. John USVI Trails: Francis Bay Trail

Excerpted from St. John Off The Beaten Track © 2006 Gerald Singer
Francis Bay Trail Map
Francis Bay Trail Map

The Francis Bay Trail begins at the restored stone building at the intersection of the Leinster Bay Road and the Maho Bay Campground access road. It is a relatively easy 0.3-mile walk with only one small hill to negotiate.

The trail goes through a dry scrub forest, past the ruins of an old residence and on to the beach at Francis Bay. It then winds through a mangrove forest and passes by a brackish pond before emerging from the mangroves at the dirt road between the beach entrance and the paved road at Mary's Creek.

St John Trails: Francis Bay trailhead
Francis Bay Trail Entrance

The renovated stone building at the beginning of the trail now serves as a National Park Service storage house. The two dates, 1814 and 1911, inscribed on the structure refer to the original completion and subsequent restoration of the building. There is a chimney attached to the structure with a hole in the bottom that leads to the inside of the storage house. Behind the storage building are old stone walls and other ruins dating back to the subsistence farming days on St. John.

Francis Bay Trail, St. John
Storage Facility

The vegetation along the trail is, for the most part, disturbed and scrubby owing to the fact that the area was used to raise cattle for many years. There are, however, still several fine examples of tamarind trees, genips and healthy mangrove forests.

St John Trails: Francis Bay Trail
Old Residence on Francis Bay Trail

Old Residence
The ruins of an ornate old residence can be found on the right side of the trail about twenty yards from the trailhead. This structure is in unstable condition, and it is dangerous to get too close to or walk in the ruins.

There is a tile covered gallery floor, surrounded by a concrete railing that is still in fairly good condition. The house at one time had a wood frame second story and the gallery was covered by a section of roof extending from the main building.

Unlike the traditional detached kitchens of the old Virgin Islands, the cookhouse for this residence was attached to the estate house. This kitchen contained five ovens, which were placed under a stone hood leading to a chimney. Stairs behind the cook house lead to another gallery above. Behind the gallery is a freshwater well, and to the west are the remains of another small structure. Imagine a family living here in the not-so-distant past.

st john virgin islands trails: francis bay ruin
Ruins North of Trail
Francis Bay Trail: headstone
Headstone

 

Ruins lying to the north of the Francis Bay Trail
Semi-improved trails found just after the old residence lead to the remains of several old stone structures and graves from the 19th century.

 

Mary’s Point Hike Summarized by Robin Swank
A Portrait for the Pastor: A brief summary of the life and heritage of Carl Emanuel Francis of St. John By David W. Knight, 2005

Bird Watching
Francis Bay is a favorite spot for bird watchers. Good places to observe the birds are at the pond overlook along the walking trail at the top of the hill, from the wooden bench beside the edge of the pond, and from the boardwalk that extends into the pond. Bring binoculars to fully enjoy these popular bird watching spots.

st john trails: francis bay boardwalk
Francis Bay Viewing Pier
st john virgin islands trails: francis bay pond
Francis Bay Salt Pond

Birds of Francis Bay
“Nestled behind Mary Point, the northernmost point of St. John is one of the island's most productive birding spots. This pond, the nearby forest and the Francis Bay shoreline provide the observer with a great variety of birdlife at any time of the year. The brackish pond is rimmed by mangroves and other salt tolerant vegetation, which harbor migrants and local specialties such as Mangrove Cuckoo, Scaly-naped Pigeon, White-cheeked Pintail and Smooth-billed Ani.

 

There also are opportunities for good views of a variety of waterfowl, herons, shorebirds and warblers. Along the beach and rocky shoreline, brown boobys, brown pelicans, magnificent frigatebirds, gulls and various terns can be seen offshore.”
From the article “Mary Point Pond, St John” by Jim Riddle, Robert Norton and Thelma Douglas appearing in Herbert A. Raffaele’s authoritative book, “Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.”

St John Trails: Yellowlegs
Birdwatching

 

National Park Bird Watching Walk
The Virgin Islands National Park offers a bird watching walk around Francis Bay Pond, exploring dry forest, salt pond and seashore habitats. For more information contact the VI National Park online at www.nps.gov/viis or (340) 776-6201 ext. 238.

Francis Bay Trail Revisited - Blog Entry