Typical view [?]
NOTE: B+, pretty shaded
NOTE: Some trails with lots of roots but generally easy
NOTE: B+ Had none but assume a few around
NOTE: Not a lot of place to go off trail easily so fairly safe
LOCATION: Accuracy: Read me
Special place - one of the oldest state parks with boardwalks going through old growth bald cypress swamp and trails going through old very diverse forests.
Lots of woodpeckers, we saw lots of robins but that's more about time of year, raptors (hawks, eagles, owls), Florida Scrub Jays, and wading birds. A good amount of forest birds and warblers but tend to be high in tree canopy and hard to see. We saw our first coveted pair of Cara Caras along the side of the road on the way to nearby Lake June In Winter State Park.
Because it's old the food webs are complex and so all kind of random niche plants and animals are around. Animals hide so you don't really see a lot but you do see peculiar insects, and we saw multiple water snakes from the boardwalk. This is bear territory, it's far enough south that panther have been known to be around, plus bobcat and the more usual animals. We didn't see any mammals but we've only been once.
Everything - it's a nice state park. There's a CCC museum (FDR New deal program that's built most nice things in the state parks). The tour guides there are very cool / personable / passionate about it and I recommend visiting if you have any interest. Best stuffed animals I've seen for sale at a gift shop.
There is a road that goes into the park and continues on out of the park on the other side and the place you pay is in the center - very unlike other parks. Most trails etc are on the west side of the park.
I would plan on giving it the day. We got there halfway through the day and felt rushed. There are lots of fairly short trails so you could make it a quick stop though.
We were looking forward to this one for awhile and it didn't disappoint but it was a little different than expected. Although it's fairly large (9,000 acres) it's mostly a bunch of shorter trails (1-3 miles). I'd say it's mostly boardwalk over wetlands or cabbage palm & oak forests but both feel very old. What I mean is if you planted a grid of young trees the food web is going to be pretty simple. For years you'll still see that grid, trees of uniform age, only the most common insects and forest floor plants. This place seems to just be completely random with big trees all over, dead big trees that have long been something younger plants have been growing around, lots of epiphytic (when something grows on something else) plants I've never seen, and lots of insects that specialize in that one weird plant you hadn't seen. So it's an experience of constantly picking up new things that makes for a great hike.
We saw a couple water snakes at the boardwalks, some odd butterflies there too. The bald cypress are old growth and there's a 1000 year old oak in here somewhere (33ft wide). I get the sense that there are lots of animals in here as well but we didn't spot any on our trip. On the road coming in from the NW we stopped before being quite in the park and saw several warblers. On the way out going to nearby Lake June in Winter State Park we saw a pair of Caracaras on the side of the road sharing an animal - got to check them out somewhat close for a good long white - made the day.
Highly recommended park!
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