THE JOLLY GATOR; THEN AND NOW
It was in June 1847 when Joseph R. Richard completed the survey of an area of the St. Johns River. A portion of that is now the Jolly Gator Fish Camp. The rest is the most pristine piece of natural Florida there ever was. In addition to the St. John’s River, it includes two smaller rivers, the Econ River to the south and Deep Creek to the north. It also includes two lakes, Puzzle Lake to the south and Lake Harney to the north.
On September 30, 1952, Arthur and Gracie Lindsay bought their dream property and developed it into a privately owned fish camp they named “Lindsay’s Fish Camp.” Arthur was nicknamed “Tennessee,” because that was where he was from. They had beer, bait, and boat rentals then, and we still have these to this day; and much more. After Gracie and Arthur passed away, their son, Charles, and his wife, Nancy, took over.
During the mid 1950's two young boys, George Griffin and Roger Butcher, lived next to each other on a remote dirt road in Sanford. Each of their fathers would take them to Lindsay’s to rent a boat and go fishing. Roger’s most precious childhood memories are those with his family along the banks of the St. Johns and Econ Rivers. Below is a 1956 picture of Roger’s father, Howard, Roger’s uncle, Gordon, and the two kids in the picture are Roger and George.
In 1992, George Griffin and his wife, Evelyn, bought Lindsay’s Fish Camp. Roger, after having gone to law school and having developed a successful legal practice, happened by. Roger and George had not seen each other in many years. Their friendship was rekindled as if they had seen each other every day.
George, Evelyn, and their children operated the fish camp very successfully for some years and made considerable improvements. George added airboat tours to the agenda, and Evelyn’s cooking quickly became locally famous. They eventually changed the name to Two Rivers Outpost. About 6 years after buying the fish camp, they accepted an offer to rent it out to allow them to pursue other business opportunities.
George and Evelyn eventually took it back over. Its name had changed several times, including Possum Bay, Harney-Econ Fish Camp, and Lake Harney Fish Camp. Most of the locals still knew it as Lindsay’s. Roger offered to purchase the fish camp, and George and Evelyn kindly agreed, knowing Roger’s love for the place and his devotion to its survival.
In January 2003, Roger. His intention was to really make it a great place; a nice, peaceful, friendly and fun place for the whole family. And, a place for visitors to enjoy some real Florida.
Bikers welcome, plus fisherman and family friendly. We still have bait and airboat tours offered by Central Florida Airboat Tours. It’s an Airboater’s Paradise. We make great steaks, seafood, Bar-B-Que, and Florida fixin’s. Sometimes, we have karaoke, bands, and other live entertainment, plus dart leagues. There is a way for everyone to have fun at the Jolly Gator.
As far as the surrounding land and water surveyed by Mr. Richard in 1847, it’s all still here! From our shoreline on the St. John’s River and looking to the south, you can see Puzzle Lake, a Bass fisherman’s paradise. You can also see the mouth of the Econ River, with its open prairies and natural woodlands, and another fisherman’s paradise.
Looking north, you can see Lake Harney, famous for Speckled Perch and other pan fish. The St. John’s between Lake Harney and our fish camp was rated the top place for Shad during the 2002-2003 season in an entire front page article in the Sports section of Florida Today. Just as the St. John’s continues across Lake Harney to the north is the mouth of the never ending, winding, and naturally dense paradise of Deep Creek. The St. John’s is navigable from the Jolly Gator all the way to Jacksonville.
You simply cannot see more of Florida’s natural beauty and native wildlife anywhere. Our area is a fisherman’s paradise for any type of Florida’s native species, including Bass, Brim and other panfish, Speckled Perch, and Catfish. Of course, there are plenty of Gators! Eagles, Osprey, White Pelicans, Egrets, Ibis, Storks, Cranes, Herons, Ducks, and many, many more soar our skies. Deer, Wild Hogs, Wild Turkeys, Otter, and many types of Turtles line the shores of the St. John’s River, the Econ River, and Deep Creek.
Check our calendar for events, bands, karaoke, and additional fun things. Come enjoy yourself, play, eat, fish, or just relax and enjoy the view. Take an Airboat ride or tour with a U.S.C.G. licensed captain, or rent a boat or canoe for your own exploration. Be a part of our family, and watch us grow!
Howard Butcher, Gordon Butcher, Roger Butcher, and George Griffin. A Day’s Catch at Puzzle Lake 1956