Wild Places

Old Miakka Preserve

 Old Miakka Preserve

Named after a settlement in the 1840s, Old Miakka Preserve contains four miles of trails including scrub habitat, pinewood flatwood, and wetlands. The preserve is abundant in flowering plants with numerous pollinators and occasional gopher tortoises. One of the trails is named after Horticulturalist Tim Cash who spent years studying plants within the preserve. If you are looking for a calm trail with lots of sunshine and flowers, visit Old Miakka Preserve in Sarasota, FL.

Have you visited any interesting preserves lately? Message us with your pictures and some fun facts about your visit. Imagine Our Florida will feature your story as a Saturday saunter contributor.

Photo credit: Aymee Laurain

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #OldMiakkareserve #explore #discover

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Playalinda Beach

Playalinda Beach at Canaveral National Seashore

Imagine spending a day at the seashore, a day free of condos, hotels, and tourists. A day where you can be one with nature in a place where you feel the power of the ocean, hear the pounding of the waves and share all of that glory with only your friends and the wildlife who make their home there.

There is a little known gem in Florida known as Playalinda Beach. It is a part of Canaveral National Seashore. Take a trip to Titusville, go east on Garden Street and continue driving east until you reach the beach. The ocean is not visible from your car. As you drive parallel to the ocean, you will see sand dunes on your right. There are 13 parking areas, each with its own boardwalk. Any of the boardwalks will lead you over the sand dunes where the ocean in all of its magnificence will appear before your eyes.

There you will meet some of the 310 species of birds found at Canaveral National Seashore, including migratory birds, who will enjoy the beach with you. If you are lucky, you may meet a loggerhead, green or leatherback sea turtle who makes her nest in the sand or hatchlings as they make their way to the ocean. Enjoy your day swimming, surfing, sunbathing, fishing, and bird watching.

Stop along the way to or from the beach and explore by car or on foot, some of Canaveral National Seashore ecosystems. These include a barrier island, offshore waters, lagoon, coastal hammock, and pine flatwoods. Outdoor experiences include canoeing, kayaking, boating, hiking, camping, and historical trails.

There is an abundance of wildlife and wildflowers at Cape Canaveral National Seashore. Keep your eyes open for bobcats, raccoons and more. Look for beautiful flowers and the pollinators among them. We hope you encounter some of the threatened species who make their homes there. You may see Florida scrub jays, Southern bald eagles, wood storks, peregrine falcons, eastern indigo snakes, and manatees.

Take a day, or two, or three, and immerse yourself in the beauty of natural Florida, the way nature intended it to be.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #Playalinda #CanaveralNationalSeashore

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Marl Soil

Marl Soil

Marl soil is common in low lying areas of the Everglades and is most common in Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties. It is rich in calcium. These areas have wet summers where the low lying areas will become flooded for months followed by several months of a dry winter.

While flooded, organic matter in the form of microalgae grows on the water. This will create a loam soil that sits on top of limestone bedrock Other plants also contribute to calcium content when the organic acids in their roots dissolve the limestone bedrock beneath the marl which increases the concentration of calcium.

Marl soil has poor drainage. Grasses such as sawgrass, sedge, reeds, mimosa, buttonwood, and black mangrove will grow in these low lying areas. The American crocodile will dig a hole in marl soil to lay eggs.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #soil #marl

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Spring Hammock Preserve

Once known as Devil’s bend, Spring Hammock Preserve is made up of several ecosystems including hydric hammock, cyprus dome, floodplain forest, mesic flatwoods, and scrubby flatwoods. It is a wetland and watershed area which acts as a natural filtering system for Soldier’s Creek Drainage Basin which eventually drains into Lake Jesup.

Located in Seminole County, Old Bear Trail which is now known as County Road (CR) 427, runs through Spring Hammock Preserve. The preserve is accessible from County Road 419. The Senator, the world’s largest living cypress tree made it’s home here for over 3,500 years before being burnt down by a human.

On the hiking trails, you may encounter wildlife such as gopher tortoises and alligators. If you are lucky, you may even see an indigo snake who makes his home here. Bird viewing opportunities include migrating birds as well as wood storks, limpkins, snowy egrets, and bald eagles who share space at the preserve. Trees in the preserve include longleaf pine, loblolly pine, slash pine, scrub oak, sweet gum, and bald cypress. Be on the lookout for native plants such as the Florida willow, Okeechobee gourd, and cuplet fern.

Make a plan to get outside and explore natural Florida.
You will be surprised at what you will discover.

Photo credit: Andy Waldo

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #SpringHammockPreserve #explore #discover

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Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park

Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park
There’s something for everyone at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park!

Nature trails, birding, equestrian trails, biking, walking, jogging, camping, cabins, picnic areas, horseshoe games, volleyball court, pavilions, and playgrounds assure your entire family will enjoy their day. You can even bring your dog on a 6-foot leash to the hiking or paved bike trail.

You can easily spend an entire day here as you explore this beautiful park of 8,300 acres located in New Port Richey. Take your time as you wander through the wilderness and discover an abundance of wild plants and animals who make their home there. Leave your cares behind while you spend quality time with your family and friends reconnecting with nature. Get Outside. Explore. Discover.

Learn more and/or make reservations here:
https://www.pascocountyfl.net/…/Jay-B-Starkey-Wilderness-Pa…

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #SaturdaySaunter #getoutside #explore#discover

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Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

This State Park is located near Palm Coast along A1A, between the Atlantic Ocean and Matanzas River. Washington Oaks Gardens is known for its formal gardens, a unique shoreline with rare coquina rock outcroppings, beautiful oak trees, and nature trails. You can hike, bike, and picnic in the park. The grounds feature brick pathways, benches, as well as its preservation of northeast Florida’s original native habitats. In the 425 acres, you will find a beach, coastal scrub, coastal hammock, and tidal marshes.

Over 144 species of birds can be found in Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. Some of the birds you may see are peregrine falcons, spotted sandpipers, scarlet tangler, and indigo bunting, and the endangered scrub jay. Take one of the hiking trails and perhaps run into bobcats, a gopher tortoise, raccoons, or whitetail deer. The waters surrounding the park are home to sea turtles, manatees and you may spot dolphins.

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park was part of the Spanish land grants and is in an area steeped in history. The formal gardens are a showcase of the park. They were devised by the former owners Louise and Owen Young and feature rose gardens, birds of paradise, and orange groves, as well as the towering oak trees which the Youngs named the property after.

The park was donated to the state in 1964 with the stipulation that the gardens were kept and maintained as they were originally laid out. Spending the day at Washington Oaks State Park is worth the trip whether you go for hiking, picnics, bird watching, fishing, or just to spend a serene day enjoying nature.

Photo credit. Lourdes Brown

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #statepark #nature

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Spring-to-Spring Trail

Spring-to-Spring Trail

Volusia County’s Spring-to-Spring Trail is an apt name for a trail which will link several of the state and county parks which feature natural springs. It is planned for more than 26 miles and should take approximately 3 hours to complete. The paved, path will be ideal for walkers, joggers, skaters, bicyclists as well as those with disabilities. Trailheads are Debary Hall Historic Site, Gemini Springs Park, Lake Monroe Park, Lake Beresford Park, Blue Spring State Park, and Grand Avenue in Glenwood. To date, 15 miles have been completed.

The Spring to Spring Trail is planned for the diversity of the land and wildlife. You will see open fields to jungle-like conditions and you may encounter bald eagles, rabbits, armadillos, alligators, otters, coyotes, and deer.

The most northern segment starts near the base of De Leon Springs State Park. De Leon Springs is known for its the lakes, creeks, and marshes. The trail travels south along Grand Avenue. To the west lies the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge. Here freshwater marshes and swamps provide critical habitat for nesting, migrating, and wintering birds. This 6-mile segment ends at W. Minnesota Avenue. The next part of the trail is an 8.9-mile segment which begins on the southwestern outskirts of DeLand. The trail travels over 2 miles along Lake Beresford. The trail then travels along Blue Spring State Park through an environment which features hammock and magnolias trees. This park is a designated manatee refuge. You can learn more about this endangered animal through ranger programs as well as view them from an observation platform during the winter when manatees gather in the warm waters of the spring. The last part of the trail route is the most scenic. It traces the northwestern shoreline of Lake Monroe.

The Spring Trail is one segment of the much larger St. Johns River to Sea loop. Eventually, the trail will stretch all the way from DeLeon Springs to New Smyrna Beach and Titusville.
Download a map of the Spring-to-Spring Trail here: https://www.volusia.org/…/park…/trails/spring-to-spring.stml
Photo:http://www.sportsvolusia.com

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #trail #hike #saturdaysaunter

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Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area

Located near Christmas Fl, the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area includes an 18.6-mile loop trail that features a lake.

The trail is located along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail so expect to see plenty of wildlife enjoying the area. Wading birds, eagles, ospreys, turkeys, deer, and alligators are some of the wildlife you may meet. Beautiful cabbage palm hammocks and freshwater marshes are waiting for you to explore. Discover bromeliads, orchids, ferns, and abundant wildflowers. Be on the lookout for rare pitcher plants, hand ferns, and cutthroat grass.

Short hikes can lead to many sightings and new discoveries like the virgin bald cypress stand in James Creek Swamp. There are trails for day hikes and hiking with overnight camping. Primitive campsites are available for the more adventurous including one along the 12 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail. The unpaved roads are bicycle friendly. For those who would rather view the scenery from the comfort of your air-conditioned vehicle, you are permitted to do so when the roads are not too wet or sandy. Dogs are welcome when on a leash.

Whether on foot, by bicycle or from your vehicle:
Get Outside. Explore. Discover.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #trail #hike #saturdaysaunter #tosohatchee

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Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

In 1947 a beautiful clear lake full of fish began to change. Land from the north was purchased for agriculture. With agricultural practices at the time, lots of nutrients, including phosphorus, we’re drained into the lake. This caused an algae bloom that depleted the fish population and ultimately deteriorated the ecosystem. Fortunately, there was hope for Lake Apopka (Bauchmann et al 1999).

Thanks to the Surface Water Improvement and Management Act of 1987 Lake Apopka was identified for restoration. Plans were created to help bring life back to the ecosystem. In 1996 chapter 96 – 207 of Florida statutes was passed by the Florida legislature. This act allowed the agricultural lands to the north to be purchased and converted into wetlands (St. John’s Water Management District).

Because of dedicated legislators, biologists, volunteers, and citizens, the fish population has been restored, plenty of birds flock to the area to feed, deer and otters call this 48.4 square mile area their home, the hydrology has drastically improved, and the ecosystem is thriving.

The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is an 11-mile scenic route where visitors can enjoy Nature and the beauty of this Florida success story.

When entering the Wildlife Drive you can access an audio guide for your smartphone.

References:

Bauchmann, R. W., Hoyer, M. V., & Canfield, D. E., Jr. (1999). The restoration of Lake Apopka in relation to alternative stable states. Hydrobiologia, 394(0), 219-232.

St. John’s Water Management District, Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
General Information Guide

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #SaturdaySaunter #LakeApopkaWildlifeDrive

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Perico Preserve

— Perico Preserve —
—– Get Outside! —–

A stroll through the Perico Preserve will take you through coastal scrub, salt marsh, freshwater marsh, stands of seagrass, and coastal hammocks. The Perico Preserve is located on what was once 175 acres of fallow farmland, located in Bradenton. Instead of letting the 175-acre site be turned into condos, local officials decided to restore coastal habitat and provide support for wildlife.

Emphasis has been placed on habitat diversity, so the Perico Preserve encompasses several plant communities. Grasses at the Preserve are Florida natives and include several that are common such as Pink Muhly. Others are less common, like Maidencane (Panicum hemitomon). These native grasses attract beneficial insects and make an excellent cover for wildlife. Over 100 species of native plants have been used on this restoration site.

The preserve hosts an assortment of birds as well. Tri-colored Herons, Osprey, Roseate Spoonbills, Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, and Great Egrets, are just a few you will observe of over 50 bird species. The area is located on several migratory routes. A rookery in the center of a pond, within a seagrass habitat with bird viewing platforms, allow the public to enjoy seeing the birds without disturbing them.

The Perico Preserve lies next to a neighborhood and extends beyond the houses to a coastal bayou. It was planned for public use and education, so it includes trails, viewing areas, shelters, and educational materials. This is a successful restoration project on Florida’s central Gulf Coast.

Photo credit: Aymee Laurain

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #PericoPreserve #GetOutside

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Coquina

Coquina (“co-keen-ah”) is a sedimentary rock consisting of loosely consolidated fragments of both shells and coral. The cemented fragments are generally calcium carbonate or phosphate. The shells and coral are compressed and turned into a mass as rainwater filters through. The rainwater dissolves the shell’s and coral’s calcium carbonate which then glues them together. Coquina forms inshore environments such as marine reefs.

In the Oxford English Dictionary, coquina is a loanword from Spanish meaning “shell-fish” or “cockle” which is a type of bivalve mollusk. The word Coquina was first used as a reference to building stone in 1837 in the book The Territory of Florida by J.L. Williams.

There are many different kinds of shells and coral that can cement together. By identifying the shells or coral you can determine the age of the coquina. Sometimes the coquina may be covered in mud or weathered with age making the identification of the shell and coral difficult and that particular piece may remain a mystery. Many coquina rocks have only been formed in the last few thousand years but others can go back to different periods of time such as the Miocene age (20 million years).

Identifying the coquina and where it’s found is important to local geology. Since Coquina forms inshore environments, either marine or on land, determining the ages of coquina deposits can help reconstruct sea level rise and fall over time.

Florida has large deposits of coquina, and the soft, white rock was ideal for building. Coquina is a very soft building stone and needs to be dried out for a few years before it can be used. The Castillo of San Marcos Fort in Saint Augustine was built of coquina by the Spanish in the late 1600s. When the British attacked the Fort in 1702 during the Siege of Saint Augustine, they fired cannonballs at the Fort which had no effect. The cannonballs kept sinking into the soft coquina. Coquina is used as an ornamental landscape material today.

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Coral Reef

—-Coral Reef—-

Florida is the only state in the continental United States with shallow coral reef near its coast. Coral reefs create specialized habitats that provide shelter,

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Lake Wales Ridge

We all know Florida has some very unique ecosystems. One of the most unique of these ecosystems is The Lake Wales Ridge. The ridge runs about 150 miles along the spine of Central Florida. The city of Lake Wales is located roughly at its center. The highest point of the ridge is Sugarloaf Mountain. At an elevation of 312 feet., this is the highest point in peninsular Florida.

As you can see in the satellite image, the ridge is actually visible from space as a bright white line. This line is caused by the dune sands of this former island chain. That’s right! The Ridge used to be a chain of islands 2 million years ago when the rest of the peninsula was under the raised waters of the ocean.

These ancient dunes and their white, powdery sand, provide a unique habitat for many rare and endangered plants and animals. These plants and animals have evolved to deal with hot conditions and quick draining soil.

Species such as the scrub jay, gopher tortoise, Florida scrub lizard and sand skink make their homes here. Many of the plants have also adapted to the heat and lack of regularly available water. Scrub oaks have thick, curved leaves adapted to conserve water. Yucca, pear cactus and scrub palmetto are all common plants along the ridge.

 

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Saw Grass Lake

Saw Grass Lake in St. Petersburg, Florida. According to the book “Mangroves to Major League: a Timeline of St. Petersburg, Florida” in 1869 cattle ranchers in Pinellas county saw bears and panthers as a threat and began organized efforts to eradicate us from the area. Today, we have better technology such as electric fences that keep us out of areas where there are other animals or vegetables. Did you know if you have a farm you can contact your regional FWC office who can help by loaning electric fencing for a limited amount of time? When you’re done you only need to return the solar panel that powers the fence. Doing this ensures that we don’t become an unwanted guest who gets a bad reputation. We don’t want history to repeat itself, right?

In the meantime, feel free to visit Sawgrass Lake and see local wildlife. You might even be lucky enough to be greeted by my good friend Brutus, the alligator.

#stpetersburgfl #pinellascounty #florida #blackbear #flbear#flblackbear

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Charles Deering Estate

Charles Deering EstateCharles Deering Estate in Miami Florida. This preserve is an excellent place to learn about Florida history. In fact, an old sinkhole revealed some amazing fossils that tell quite a story.

Speaking of stories, have you heard the story of the Florida Spectacle Bear? Tremarctos floridanus lived during the late Pleistocene Epoch. One of the oldest fossils for this bear was found in a sinkhole located on the Charles Deering Estate. These bears are thought to be strictly herbivorous which today’s Florida black bear eats 15% insects and 5% animal carrion. A fossil of the Florida spectacle bear was found at is location and was carbon dated back to 12 million years ago. Their wildlife friends at the time included glyptodonts, mammoths, mastodons, giant sloths, wolves, and the only large mammal to survive, the manatee.

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Goethe State Park

Goethe State ParkThis park is home to one of Florida’s largest Cypress trees, Goethe Giant! You can also see pitcher plant bogs here which are really pretty.

This beautiful forest is also home to little Smokey Jr., a bear cub who was rescued from a wildfire and rehabilitated. One reason this spot was selected for his home is that the bear population in this area has been in trouble. Low genetic diversity is the problem. A long time ago us bears were almost hunted to extinction. That meant very few of us existed in small isolated areas. When bears mate their DNA combines to make all the traits for a cub. DNA is like a set of survival tools. If you have a variety of tools you can be really successful. If your tools are limited it’s very difficult to survive. Creating wildlife corridors and passages helps other bears with more DNA tools to reach the small population in these necks of the woods. Come on out to Goethe and see if you can spot one of us.

#Goethestatepark #Goethegiant #geneticdiversity #flbears #flblackbear #florida

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