Wild Places

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park

“This park is like nothing else in Florida. Being able to see the stars at night in unbelievable detail was absolutely worth the trip.” Jonathan Holmes, IOF Contributor

There is a place in Florida that is world-renowned for stargazing. Designated as a Dark Sky Park due to the absence of light pollution, the stars and planets can be enjoyed the way nature intended.

Located in Okeechobee, Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park is part of the headwaters to the Everglades and is the largest remaining dry prairie ecosystem in Florida. Once spanning coast to coast and from Lake Okeechobee to Kissimmee, the prairie has been reduced to a mere 10% of its original expanse.

Throughout the years, humans have altered the prairie to suit their needs. The State Park is working to restore the land to pre-European influence. Over 70 miles of ditches and canals have been restored to swales and sloughs. Old plow lines are slated for reconditioning, and a cattle pasture will be restored to native shrubs and grasses. As a fire and flood dependent ecosystem, these efforts will allow the prairie to thrive once again.

The most famous resident of the prairie is the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow. Critically endangered, the sparrows rely on a healthy prairie ecosystem for survival. Crested Caracaras, Burrowing Owls, Wood Storks, Swallow-Tail Kites, and White-Tail Kites find refuge at the park. Watch for Bald Eagles, White-tailed Deer, and Indigo Snakes. Native wildflowers are abundant. Look for Blazing Stars, Yellow Bachelors Buttons, Meadow Beauty, Pipewort, and Alligator Lilies.

There is plenty to do at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve. Hiking, horseback riding, and biking are wonderful ways to experience Nature up close. Camping, primitive camping, and equestrian camping are offered for those who want to spend the night. A ranger-led prairie buggy tour and an astronomy pad are spectacular ways to enjoy the park.

For reservations, times, fees, and more click here:
https://www.floridastateparks.org/…/kissimmee-prairie-prese…

Photo Credit – Jonathan Holmes

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Viera Wetlands

– Viera Wetlands –

One mile of shoreline, wildflowers, and birds draw over 200,000 people each year to the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands which is commonly known as Viera Wetlands. Named in honor of a long-time Brevard County employee and awarded a grant by the Florida Wildflower Foundation, the wetlands are a popular destination for ecotourists, birders, photographers, and wildflower enthusiasts.

There are 200 acres to explore at Viera Wetlands. Walk or bike around the berms. Enjoy the scenery from your car as you leisurely drive no more than 10 mph along the one way, unpaved road. (The road is occasionally closed to vehicles when too wet.) Revel in the beauty of wildflowers along the banks of the lakes and ponds. Notice the different plants in dry areas as well as those in wet areas. The plants work together to stabilize the soils without the need for fertilizers and irrigation. What pollinators will you discover?

Birds abound at Viera Wetlands which is included in the Great Florida Birding Trail. Get a better view of the wetlands from the observation tower. Keep your eyes open otters, marsh rabbits, and raccoons who make their homes there along with an abundance of amphibians and reptiles. Look for beautiful butterflies and striking Painting Buntings.

For more information, click here: https://viera.com/attractions/viera-wetlands…

-Photo Credit – Andy Waldo

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Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Wakodahatchee Wetlands

“Nice morning walk warm-up. I loved seeing all the Florida pond apples. A plethora of water birds. Definitely bring your camera when you stop here.” Bobby Putnam

Located in suburban Delray Beach, Wakodahatchee Wetlands is the perfect place for a morning walk. A 3/4 mile boardwalk makes it easy to stroll leisurely through 3 of the wetland’s ponds. There are benches and gazebos to sit and enjoy the views. Interpretive signs will help you learn about the history and ecology of the wetlands as well as water purification.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands, a Seminole Indian word meaning “created waters,” was built by Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department to act as a natural filter for about 2 million gallons per day of treated reclaimed water. While cleansing the water, the wetlands provide a home for an abundance of wildlife.

Forested wetlands, marsh areas, ponds, and islands have been designed to attract an abundance of birds and other wildlife. Part of the Great American Birding Trail, Wakodahatchee Wetlands boasts sightings of178 species of birds. Raccoons, rabbits, otters, frogs, turtles, and alligators call these wetlands home. Native plants are used as buffers to hide human neighborhoods.

Grab your camera and take a ride to Delray Beach. Wakodahatchee Wetlands is open to the public from sunrise to 6 p.m. (depending on the season), seven days a week.
For more information, visit: http://www.visitdelraybeach.org/pla…/wakodahatchee-wetlands/

Photo Credit – Bobby Putnam

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Black Bear Wilderness Area

Black Bear Wilderness Area

Hiking the 7.1-mile loop trail along the St. John’s River in Seminole County’s Black Bear Wilderness Area will provide a great opportunity to view many of Florida’s native species. The trail system in this 1600 acre Wilderness Area winds through a Hydric Hammock, Wet Prairie, and Cypress Swamps. Because it is established on levees, it stays dry most of the year. However, it can experience flooding during the wet season since it is located within the St. Johns River’s floodplain. Blue Blazes will show you the way along this remote trail and boardwalks provide a dry passage over wet areas.

The Black Bear Wilderness Trail plays an important role in connecting the Ocala National Forest with the Wekiva / St. John’s basins. Look for River Otters, American Alligators, White-tailed deer, and Swallow-tailed Kites. We hope you are the lucky ones who get to see a Florida Black Bear in the wild.

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Boyd Hill Nature Preserve

Explore a marsh, swamp, Pine Flatwoods, Sand Scrub, Hammock, and Lake Maggiore all at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. Located in St. Petersburg and part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, the Preserve is home to over 165 species of birds, over 50 species of butterflies, and over 60 species of amphibians and reptiles.

Enjoy a leisurely stroll or bike through the 3 miles of trails. Be sure to look for uniques species in the Sand Scrub. Cool off under the dense canopy in the hammock while admiring the abundance of wildflowers. Stop at Lake Maggiore to birdwatch.

The Birds of Prey program at Boyd Hill Preserve cares for non-releasable birds where they are ambassadors for their species and habitat. Visit the Environmental Center for information on programs, rental space, and nature camps.

Tram Tours are available and most trails are ADA accessible.

For more information, times, and admission, visit: http://stpeteparksrec.org/boydhillpreserve/

Photo Credit: Marc Goldberg
#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF
#GetOutside #BoydHillNaturePreserve

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Gemini Springs

Gemini Springs is a 212-acre park in DeBary, Florida. There are many trails on the outside and on the inside of the park allowing one to fully enjoy the beauty. There are also campsites within the park for primitive camping for a nominal fee. If you have a dog you’d like to bring along too, be sure he/she is on a leash while walking the trails. There is a dog park for them to run with a picnic area inside for the humans.

The trail on the outside of the park is part of the greater trail that goes to Osteen and beyond and is great for walking, jogging, and bike riding. The trails on the inside are for walking and jogging. There is a place to secure your bike. They have a nice playground for the kids and there are pavilions that can be rented for special occasions. There are also many benches and picnic tables around to just enjoy an afternoon of nature.

If you love taking pictures, this is a great place to catch birds, fish, turtles, snakes, gators, other wildlife, and an abundance of beautiful flowers. The oak trees with the hanging moss are magical to see and you just might see a woodpecker.

There are 2 springs inside the park and they are marked with signs. Approximately 6.5 million gallons of sparkling fresh water bubble up from the two springs each day.

Gemini Springs is a beautiful hidden gem in Volusia County with so much to see. So what are you waiting for? Make the short drive and become one with Mother Nature!
– Melanie Lulue – Featured Contributor

For More Information:
https://www.volusia.org/…/ecologic…/gemini-springs-park.stml

Photo Credit: Melanie Lulue

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Croom Wildlife Management Area

The Croom Wildlife Management Area

Just northeast of Brooksville there is a beautiful tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest waiting to be explored. The Croom Wildlife Management Area is made up of 20,000 acres along the winding Withlacoochee River in Hernando and Sumter counties.

There are 31 miles of hiking trails, 64 miles of biking trails, 43 miles of equestrian trails along with the paved Withlacoochee State Trail. Camp at one of 5 camping areas, launch your boat or canoe from one of 3 boat ramps or enjoy a thrilling ride at the Dirtbike and ATV area. A four-wheel drive is recommended if you prefer to drive through the sandy roads.

Walk, bike or ride through the Longleaf Pine forests, admire the many Cypress trees, and stop by Silver Lake. Watch for fox squirrels, deer, turkeys, alligators, and swallow-tailed kites. Bring your dog on a leash – they are allowed in most places, a picnic lunch, and enjoy your day outdoors at The Croom Wildlife Management Area.

Photo Credit: Marc Goldberg

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #GetOutside #Hike

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Orlando Wetlands Park

Orlando Wetlands Park

Once a wet prairie that was part of the St John’s River flood plain, Orlando Wetlands Park in Christmas Fl is now a man-made wetland treatment system that attracts over 230 species of birds.

Orlando Wetlands Park has quite a history. It was originally settled in the 1830s. In 1837, Fort Christmas was erected by the Army. When the Civil War was over, settlers drained the land for agriculture. By the early 1900s, the land became an open range for cattle while red cedar trees and pine trees were being cut down for lumber. By the 1940s a dairy farm was operating on the property. With a growing population, the city of Orlando and surrounding communities needed a larger and more efficient treatment facility. The City of Orlando purchased 1650 acres from Ft Christmas, converted 1220 acres of pasture back into wetlands, and named it Orlando Wetlands Park.

35 million gallons of reclaimed wastewater makes its way through 3 wetlands communities each day. The ecosystems include a mixed marsh, wet prairie, and hardwood /cypress swamps. A 100-acre lake was also established. As the water makes its 30-40 day journey through the park, nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as other residual nutrients, are removed before the clean water spills into the St Johns River.

2.3 million aquatic plants, including 200,000 trees were planted during the construction of Orlando Wetlands Park. Look for pickerelweed, duck potato, cattails, and giant bulrush. Trees include cypress, pop ash, and water hickory.

Animals abound at Orlando Wetlands Park. Over 18 species who are federally or state listed live at the park. Blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, black-bellied whistling duck, roseate spoonbill, black-crowned night heron, American bittern, wood stork, sandhill crane, bald eagle, great blue heron, red-shouldered hawk, osprey, common gallinule, and coot are some of the birds you may encounter. Be on the lookout for raccoons, river otters, white-tailed deer, bobcats, and alligators along the roads and hiking trails.

Open daily from sunrise to sunset, Orlando Wetlands Park offers wonderful opportunities for wildlife viewing, photography, hiking, biking, and horseback riding. There is an education center, guided tours, pavilions, picnic tables, and interpretive signs for your enjoyment.

For more information, click here: https://www.orlando.gov/Parks-the-Environme…/…/Wetlands-Park

Photo Credit: Andy Waldo

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Blowing Rocks Preserve

Blowing Rocks is a barrier island composed of Anastasia limestone shores which can produce spectacular dances of waves as they thrash against the stone and bounce higher than a house.

In 1969 Jupiter Island residents donated 73 acres of land towards conservation. The land would become a haven for endangered species such as the green, loggerhead, and leatherback sea turtles. It also houses one of Florida’s most endangered ecosystems, the sand dune. Volunteers over several decades have removed Australian pines and Brazilian pepper, invasive species to Florida. The dunes were restored with sea grapes, sea oats, beach sunflowers, and bay cedar.

There are many activities that you can take part in at Blowing Rocks Preserve. The park attracts nature photographers, hikers, campers, snorkelers, and bird watchers. Have you visited Blowing Rocks Preserve? Tell us what your favorite part of the trip was.

Photo credit: Marc Goldberg
#blowingrockspreserve #jupiterfl #jupiterflorida #seaoats #barrierisland #southflorida #florida #ImagineOurFlorida #IOF

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Brooker Creek Preserve

– Brooker Creek Preserve –

Brooker Creek Preserve is the largest natural area in Pinellas County. Surrounded by urban development, this 8700 acres of wild Florida protects much of the Brooker Creek Watershed.

There are trails for everyone at Brooker Creek Preserve. Explore the preserve via boardwalk or trail. Two trails are nearly 5 miles long. Shorter hikes vary from the .1 mile bird path to the 4 mile Pine Needle Path. Equestrians can enjoy over 9 miles on one of two trails that wind through fields and pinelands.

There are 4 distinct ecosystems within the Preserve. The Forested Wetlands is made up of a creek system with 13 meandering channels. Water flows through the channels during the rainy season of May through Oct. Fish, birds, and other wetland inhabitants thrive in the wetlands. The Pine Flatwoods is a sunny area alive with saw palmetto and native grasses. Gopher Tortoises enjoy the grasses as well as the leaves and fruits from the plants that grow here. Be sure to look for the threatened Catesby’s Lily.

Cool off in the Oak Hammocks where tall oaks block the sun. Watch for turkeys and white-tailed deer foraging for acorns among the leaf litter. The Cypress Dome boasts Black Gum, Bald Cypress, and Buttonbrush. Look for an abundance of wildlife in this cool and moist swamp. Dragonflies, frogs, spiders, marsh rabbits and owls thrive here.

Interpretive Trail Signs along the paths show how everything in nature is connected. Discover how your yard can expand wildlife areas, how human choices are impacting the watershed, and how water connects all of us.

Plan your visit. See the schedule for annual events and programs, download a map, reserve a guided tour or sign up for classes at the Environmental Center
http://brookercreekpreserve.org/

Photo Credit: Marc Goldberg

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #BrookerCreekPreserve #GetOutside

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J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge -Sanibel Island

Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling convinced President Harry Truman to protect environmentally valuable land on Sanibel Island from developers. In 1945 President Truman signed an Executive Order, and J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge was created. Today, it is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States.

J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge offers refuge to countless animals, including those who are threatened or endangered. There are over 245 species of birds in its 6400 acres of mangrove forests, open waters, tropical hardwood hammock, seagrass beds, freshwater marsh, and Mudflats.

Federally and State listed species seek haven at Ding Daring Wildlife Refuge. Piping Plovers, Black Skimmers, Roseate Spoonbills, Burrowing Owls, West Indian Manatees, Sanibel Island Rice Rats, and Loggerhead Sea Turtles make their homes here. Aboriginal prickly-apple and Barbed wire cacti are protected from development within the refuge. Visitors from all over the world travel to Sanibel to catch a glimpse of and photograph The Big 5: the American White Pelican, Mangrove Cuckoo, Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, and the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.

Calusa Indians once made their home in the hardwood hammock among Gumbo Limbo trees, Strangler Figs, and Sea Grape trees. Take a short walk down the Shellmound Trail and discover remnants of shells which along with other waste, grew into mounds. The change in soil chemistry and height created a subtropical maritime hammock.

The 4-mile wildlife drive offers visitors the opportunity to drive, bike, or hike along the paved road. There are plenty of spaces to park and get out of your car for wildlife viewing. Four walking trails: the Indigo Trail, the Wildlife Education Boardwalk, Shellmound Trail, and Wulfert Keys Trail are accessible from the wildlife drive. A 90 minute guided tour aboard a tram is available. Walk or bike the Bailey tract to enjoy freshwater plants and wildlife. Launch your canoe, kayak, or boat or take a guided canoe, kayak or paddleboard tour at one of the designated sites.

For more information, times and to plan your trip, click here: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/JN_Ding_Darling/

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #JNDingDarlingWildlifePreserve

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Lyonia Preserve

Lyonia Preserve is a hidden gem located in Deltona, Volusia County. It is a 360 acre restored scrub ecosystem with three clearly marked hiking trails and an educational center. Named for the Rusty Lyonia, a scrub plant, this imperiled Florida ecosystem is found on a high sandy ridge with open areas of white sand, low vegetation, dwarf oak trees, and few tall trees.

Three trails meander through the Preserve where you will experience more than 164 species of plants and 124 species of animals including Florida mice, gopher tortoises, gopher frogs and many other species of birds, mammals, and insects. Located on The Great American Birding Trail, you may see white-eyed Vireos, Eastern Towhees, Common Nighthawks.and many more so bring your binoculars and camera.

This Preserve had been restored and maintained as scrub habitat for threatened Florida Scrub Jays. Scrub Jays are endemic to Florida and depend on scrub habitat for survival. Scrub Jays are not shy birds. They are curious about people and may even approach you.

The Lyonia Preserve has no shade so come prepared. Bring water, sunscreen and close-toed shoes for the soft, sandy trails. There is a covered picnic pavilion to enjoy your picnic lunch before visiting the Educational Center.

The Educational Center shares the complex with the Deltona Library. It features an outdoor amphitheater, classrooms, ecological exhibits, fresh and saltwater habitats as well as native and non-native reptiles and mammals. The Center offers insights and education into this fragile scrub ecosystem and the animals and plants who live there.

Photo Credit: Lourdes Brown
#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #Lyonia #Getoutside #Getoutdoors

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Oakland Preserve

Oakland Nature Preserve

Oakland Nature Preserve is a 128-acre preserve just west of Orlando between Winter Garden and Clermont. It includes 5 of Florida’s 12 major ecosystems. The mission of the Oakland Nature Preserve is to educate visitors about the ecosystems of the Lake Apopka Basin, and to conserve and restore the land and habitats within the Preserve.

The Oakland Nature Preserve offers many programs for visitors, including insect safaris, paddle tours, and guided hikes to experience Florida’s native species. On the Critter Cams, you may see a bobcat, osprey, great horned owl, or a gopher tortoise.

The Preserve’s most popular trail is its 2/3 mile long and mostly shaded boardwalk to Lake Apopka and a pavilion. The boardwalk is wheelchair accessible. The signage along the boardwalk will identify plants and trees. You may see blackberries, elderberries, cattails, alligators, birds, spiders, snakes, and turtles. There are 6 hiking trails. Trails are color-coded to available maps. Each trail offers a different experience and view, from floodplain forests to a shady oak hammock.

The Preserve’s Education Center offers live turtle and fish exhibits as well as a museum and library. While there, enjoy the Serenity Porch by resting in one of the rocking chairs and taking in the beauty of Nature.

source: Oaklandnaturepreserve.org.

Photo Credit: Dan Kon

#ImagineOurFlorda #IOF #OaklandNaturePreserve#getoutside #getoutdoors #explore #discover

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Anna Maria Island

Just south of Tampa Bay on Florida’s Gulf Coast is a quaint Barrier Island called Anna Maria.

Anna Maria Island is a seven-mile strip of white sandy beaches. It is a bird sanctuary and has attracted scholars who come to study biology, including marine biology, ecology, and more.

Seagulls, sandpipers, cranes, pelicans, herons, spoonbills, egrets, wood storks, osprey, vultures, hawks, bald eagles, crows, and feral parrots make their home here. Sea turtles come ashore to nest and bottlenose dolphins play in the Gulf, Intracoastal Waterway, and Bimini Bay.

Experience snorkeling, diving, including group diving, bicycling, bird watching, boating, or strolling along the beach. Enjoy a spectacular sunset to end your day at Anna Maria Island.

Photo Credit Aymee Laurain

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #AnnaMariaIsland #SaturdaySaunter

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St Johns River

The. St. Johns River is Florida’s longest river at 310 miles long. It is one of only a few rivers in the US that flow north and is one of the laziest rivers in the world.

With headwaters in saw grass marshes south of Melbourne in Indian River County, the St. Johns River flows into the Atlantic Ocean near Mayport in Duval County. The Wekiva River, the Econlockhatchee River, and the Ocklawaha River along wth other tributaries flow into the St Johns River.

Twice a day, the incoming tide from the Atlantic Ocean causes the St.Johns River to reverse its current. When the water is low and/or the wind is blowing from the northeast, the reverse flow can extend 161 miles upstream and last for several days.
The reverse flow makes the St. John’s River more vulnerable to pollutants since they are not easily filtered.

For the St. Johns River and all rivers in Florida:
– Reduce fertilizers.
– Plant Florida native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers.
– Make sure your septic system is working properly
– Pick up dog poop. Don’t let it run down the storm drains.
Can you think of any other ways you can do your part to keep Florida’s water sources clean and safe for humans and wildlife?

Photo credit: Kon Studio
Source: St Johns River Water Management District

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Kraft Azalea Garden

There’s a secret garden in Winter Park with magnificent cypress trees, 8 benches for you to pause and immerse yourself in the beauty of Nature, and sunsets at The Excedra on the shore of Lake Maitland.

Kraft Azalea Park, located near Orlando, is a 5.22-acre public garden open to the public year-round from 8 am until dusk. The garden was designed in 1938 by Martin Daetwyler who was hired by Winter Park residents George and Maud Kraft along with Mayor Frederick Cady and other Winter Park residents.

While you are there, be sure to look for the banyan tree. Banyan trees, native to Sri Lanka and Pakistan and sacred to Buddhists and Hindus, have been planted throughout the tropics in botanical gardens and city parks. The banyan tree at Kraft Azalea Park is at least 70 years old and is believed to be the northernmost banyan tree in Florida which has survived the frosts. Like all trees in the fig family, the foliage and sap of the banyan tree can be an irritant to some.

IOF contributor David Gale says, “The Kraft Azalea Gardens on the edge of Lake Maitland are definitely worth a visit in February/March. We saw dozens of Great Egrets and numerous Anhingas all in full mating plumage high in the Cypress trees. We missed the azalea blossoms for this visit but this small park was still spectacular and very peaceful even though it’s in a suburb of Winter Park.”

David was lucky to visit during the breeding season for the Great Egrets. Kraft Azalea Park is a Great Egret rookery where up to 50 pairs show off their mating rituals, lay their eggs, and raise their babies. Mockingbirds, ospreys, and pileated woodpeckers also make their nests there. Sandhill cranes and wood storks visit the garden too.

Make plans today to visit this central Florida secret garden.

Photo credit: David Gale
source: https://cityofwinterpark.org/…/p…/parks/kraft-azalea-garden/.

#ImagineOurFlorida #SaturdaySaunter #KraftAzaleaPark #Getoutside#Getoutdoors #egret

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Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area

Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA), located near Palmdale in Highlands County, is an 18,272-acre corridor along Fisheating Creek. A 40-mile stretch of the 52-mile long creek is located within the management area. Fisheating Creek is now the only free-flowing water source feeding into Lake Okeechobee.

This WMA is a beautiful and unique place to spend the day or multiple days. It is made up of several ecosystems including marshes, cypress swamps, hardwood hammocks, longleaf pine, slash pine, and Florida scrub.
Be sure to bring a camera since the management area is a site along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.

Canoe or kayak through hardwood hammocks and cypress swamps. Decaying plant matter creates tannin which makes the water a brilliant tea color where the sunlight touches it. The creek is teeming with bluefish, bass, and panfish. Wading birds, otters, and alligators enjoy the creek too. Swallow-tailed kites raise their babies along the creek and thousands of beautiful butterflies can be seen in the fall.

The 5-mile Fort Center Interpretive Nature Trail takes you through a hardwood hammock, wet prairie, and flood plain. There are covered rest areas with benches along the trail. You will learn about the history of the early Native Americans who made their homes here between 1000 and 500 BCE. See wildlife such as alligators, turtles, deer, wild hogs, turkey, wading birds, raptors, and an occasional black bear as you hike the hardwood forests. If you are lucky, you may even spot a federally endangered Florida panther!

At the Fisheating Creek Outpost enjoy camping primitively, hook up your RV, and rent a canoe or kayak. Hike through cypress forests on the 2-mile Knobby Knee Trail. Take the 8-mile Burnt Bridge paddling tour or consider the 16-mile Ingram Crossing tour for an overnight canoe or kayak trip. Cool off in the designated swimming areas, cook over a campfire or enjoy a picnic lunch.

Both the WMA and the Outpost are open 365 days, including holidays. Before planning your trip, be sure to check the calendars for both the WMA and the Outpost for activities, the best time to view your favorite wildlife, and water levels. Hours vary at the Outpost office.
Let’s camp at Fisheating Creek! – Fisheating Creek Outpost
https://myfwc.com/recreation/lead/fisheating-creek

IOF’s Board of Directors held their annual meeting around a campfire at Fisheating Creek Outpost in Feb. A few of the directors camped overnight and cooked campfire chili and other tasty treats for those who drove in for the day. All of us fell in love with Fisheating Creek Outpost and are planning to have our next annual meeting there.

Photo Credit: Directors Lourdes Brown, Ileana Rodriguez-Ramirez, Andy Waldo

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Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park consists of 22,000 acres of both wet and dry savanna in Micanopy, Florida. This state park, located just south of Gainesville, has more than 20 biological communities which provide habitats for wildlife. In the 1970s the state of Florida acquired the land and began the process of restoring it.

Within Paynes Prairie Preserve is a highland freshwater marsh composed of different plant communities that vary based on the depth of the water. The wet, forested areas have coastal swamps of bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and swamp tupelo (Nyssa biflora). Coastal plain blackwater river forests grow along streams. The uplands have southern oak domes and hammocks of southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) growing in areas with moist soils. Florida longleaf pine sandhills grow on drier, sandier soils.

There are over 720 species of plants at the Paynes Prairie Preserve including native, introduced, and invasive species. You will see everything from the Red Maple(Acer rubrum) to the invasive Cora Ardisia (Ardisia crenatum) to the beautiful Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata).

Over 270 species of birds including anhingas, ibis, flocks of turkeys, herons, and migratory birds can be found on the plain. You will see alligators as well as Cracker Horses and Cracker Cattle, both of which were introduced by the Spaniards. You may even see an American Bison which was reintroduced to the Preserve where they roamed until the 18th century.

Start your exploration of the Preserve in historic Micanopy. Exhibits, photographs and an audio-visual program will explain the natural and historical significance of the Preserve. A 50-foot tower provides a panoramic view, where you may spot wild horses.

Paynes Prairie has more than 30 miles of trails for horseback riders, cyclists, and hikers which will lead you through a variety of ecosystems. Camping opportunities await you in a full-facility campground. There is a boat ramp on the east side of the 300 acres Lake Wauberg for canoes, kayaks, and small boats. On weekends in November – April you can participate in ranger lead activities with pre-made reservations.

In 1971, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park was designated Florida’s first state Preserve. In 1974, Paynes Prairie Preserve was nominated to the National Register of Natural Landmarks, one of only 600 in the country.

ADDRESS: 100 Savannah Blvd, Micanopy, FL 32667

Photo Credit Kerry Waldo
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