Hidden Jacksonville: Marco Lake

Converted from a brickyard claypit into a manmade lake during the construction of Jacksonville’s popular San Marco neighborhood in the 1920s, Marco Lake is one of the city’s most picturesque spaces. Mostly surrounded by private property, it’s also easy to miss even for locals. Fortunately, historic photos and modern drone footage can help capture this Jacksonville treasure.

Marco Lake today

The grassy stretch at the top left of this picture is one of the few places where non-residents can see Marco Lake.

Today, Marco Lake and its canal are surrounded by 29 private residences. It can be accessed by boat from the St. Johns River, but otherwise public access is limited to the bridge carrying River Road over the canal, a small section of Sorrento Road, and a 400 foot grassy stretch along Largo Road, which includes a small promontory encircling an old oak tree. The Largo Road section offers a scenic view and place to fish, but the city property is not officially one of San Marco’s many parks, and there is no parking or amenities.

The Thrill Bridge, which carries River Road over the Marco Lake Canal.

The bridge, officially (and fairly colorlessly) the Marco Lake Canal Bridge, is better known locally as the Thrill Bridge. This short, arched concrete bridge was once a favorite spot for teenagers to speed their cars and bikes over to catch air. According to The Florida Times-Union, the bridge’s steep hump was smoothed over in the late 1960s. The current version of the bridge, constructed in 1979, similarly offers little thrill other than a nice view of the canal and the occasional manatee sighting.

Marco Lake from 400 feet

In May 2020, Jacksonville photographer Erik Hamilton joined The Jaxson at the Thrill Bridge, where he used his drone to capture some views of Marco Lake that most never get to see.

An aerial video of Marco Lake and its surrounds.

Entrance to the Marco Lake Canal from the St. Johns River.

Facing westward toward the St. Johns River.

A final look at Marco Lake, San Marco, and Downtown Jacksonville.

Photos and video by Erik Hamilton. Words by Bill Delaney. Follow Erik on Instagram and contact Bill at wdelaney@moderncities.com.