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As in much of Florida, boats are a familiar sight in Jacksonville and they play an important role in the city's life. In land area Jacksonville is the largest city in the United States but much of its activity and economy have to do with water. The city is divided by the St. Johns River and the Atlantic is on the east of the city together with the Jacksonville Beaches communities. Boats have a lot to do with Jacksonville for transport, the US military and tourism.
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Jacksonville has 21 miles of beaches with endless opportunities for boating, fishing, swimming or just enjoying the sunset. For a backgrounder, you can start with the Jacksonville Beaches Museum and History Center which exhibits historic photographs, artifacts and even a 28-ton 1911 steam locomotive. The Jacksonville Beach Pier is the ideal place to start off on your fishing expedition or to just head out to sea and watch the dolphins, manatees and birds. The pier juts out 1,320 feet into the Atlantic, is accessible to the handicapped, has a 20-foot wide deck, fish-cleaning stations, bait shops and facilities for chartering boats.
You can go kayaking, explore the waterways, or catch the cruise ships to the Bahamas that make Jacksonville a home port. Jacksonville offers both offshore and inshore fishing. Inshore, you can catch redfish, sea trout, flounder, blackdrum and sheepshead. Experienced skippers of charter boats can help you discover secret hideaways for fly fishing. Offshore, saltwater fish include tuna, Wahoo, grouper and snapper among others. Every year, up to 500 boats join the Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament competing for hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money.
The waters of Jacksonville give the city the third largest naval force in the country. It is home to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Naval Station Mayport, which will be home to a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Blount Island Command of the Marine Corps and the Florida Air National Guard. The military is the largest employer in Jacksonville and contributes $6.1 billion annually to the city's economy.
It's easy to see that it's boats, military and civilian, that do a lot to keep Jacksonville above water.
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