The Fern Gully of the Parish of St. Ann, leading directly down

in its extensions to the coast at Ocho Rios, has long been

considered one of Jamaica’s prime showplaces. I believe that almost all authorities now agree that the town’s name is a corruption of the Spanish Las Chorreras, which signifies

“the cascades” or “waterfalls,” rather than the “eight rivers” which is the translation of the contemporary epithet. And I

am sure that better experts I have long considered that Fern Gully

was once a series of cascading falls, tumbling downwards to the sea

and bringing the needed soils upon which the present community of Ocho Rios is built.

-Alex Hawkes, October 29, 1970

” The drive of several miles from Moneague through the Fern Gully along the coast to Ocho Rios, the Roaring River, and St. Ann’s Bay and then back to Moneague by another road, is one of the most beautiful in the world more beautiful even than the renowned drives along the Bay of Naples”

-New York Evening Post, January 18, 1896.
Excerpts from

On the other side of the island — from Ewarton over to Mount Diablo down to the north shore there was a pretty stretch of land. The Fern Gully was simply unsurpassable anywhere.Along the coast from Annotta Bay to Port Antonio there were a great many beautiful places.

                                                     – Mr. John Wilson, of Edinburgh, formerly one of the members of Parliament for that city, in a lecture on Jamaica in tbe Institute of Jamaica, March 4, 1902

1900 -1920’s

Tourists Haven-

At this period Fern Gully was one of the important tourist attractions which the owners of hotel accommodation inevitably mentioned in their advertisements, as the Moneague Hotel had done for the previous decade, and continued to do well into the future.

Hurricane Damage-

 In 1903 Jamaica suffered a direct hit from a major hurricane, in many ways similar to that by Gilbert in 1988. Although there was widespread damage in St Ann, I have not, so far, found any reference to the impact on Fern Gully specifically. In 1909 a late season hurricane, in early November, caused considerable damage in the eastern parishes of the island.

The problems of 1909-10

In mid-1909 attention was drawn to deteriorating conditions in Fern Gully. In the following year Government, through the Department of Agriculture, took over some responsibility for Fern Gully, allocating £50 for the work needed. A major part of the problem was caused by the incursion of neighbouring small-holders into the Gully.

 The problems of 1912-15

1912 was a fairly quiet hurricane season, but the seventh and last hurricane of the season, which was the worst, hit Jamaica on November 17-18; it was  a Category 3 hurricane that moved very slowly along the north coast of the island. It had formed north of Panama and strengthened slowly, crawling towards Jamaica with sustained winds of 115 mph and then moving slowly across the island.
Naturally the effects of this hurricane were felt in the following years, and it seems clear that no real decision had been made as to who was responsible for the restoration and upkeep of Fern Gully
At the start of the 1920s, Philip Sanford Marden, an American travel writer of Lowell, Massachusetts, wrote at some length in his book, Sailing South (1921), of the drive through Fern Gully.
p. 268-70
As we drew near the coast the road took a headlong plunge of three miles or thereabouts, down and ever
downward, through caverns seemingly measureless to man, the sides of which were covered with ferns of
most stupendous size and endless variety. Not the least interesting of Jamaican flora are the varieties of
fern. They embrace innumerable species. Your driver, whatever else he may not know, is anxious to show
you his knowledge of such things as these.”See, Missy! Silver fern! Wait! I get him for yo’.” And forthwith he jams on his emergency brake, vanishes
over the side, and disappears in the undergrowth. Shortly he emerges with a few fern leaves, which you lay
on the back of your hand and then administer a smart blow. Behold! An exact reproduction of every frond
remains outlined in silver on your sunburned flesh. Or maybe in gold, if it’s a gold fern. And as for sensitive
plant what they call locally ‘”Shamed of you” it is everywhere. Touch it and it shivers and shrivels into
itself, for all the world as if alive and very much frightened, thus to remain for about ten minutes by the
watch. Then it plucks up heart and opens again.The drive down to the sea, at a place still bearing the name of Ochos Rios (Eight Rivers) for some reason
which we did not discover, is known somewhat unpoetically as the “Fern Gully Ride.” I never fancied the
word “gully.” To me, it means a bleak and stony ravine, quite different from this opulent fern-clad abyss,
from the bottom of which we could hardly see the sun.We ground our way down through the verdant gloom of that cleft in the primordial rocks, pausing prudently
after a time to let the brakes cool sufficiently to save them, and always exclaiming at the beauty of the
environment, which was notable alike for its ferns, its depth of shadow, and its precipitous walls which
vanished somewhere above into an unguessed heaven of tropical trees.Then almost without warning we emerged from the gulf of ferns, and lo, there was the sea beating in long,
regular rollers on the palm-clad beach. A brawling stream, doubtless one of the eight, dashed out of the
jungle and with one exulting, joyous bound leaped into the arms of Ocean. East and west under the palms
stretched the white road that circles the island. Inland, the cliffs rose boldly.