Friday, June 05, 2009

Visit A Wildlife Trail This Weekend

Hit The Florida Wildlife Trails

Do you want to venture into unfamiliar territory Saturday to chance seeing something new? Then try Florida�s wildlife management areas, which are underexplored troves of trail-laced waterways, woods, marshes and scrub.

Besides footpaths, they have overlooks, where visitors can glimpse wildlife; and there are boat launches, so people can paddle the many creeks, rivers and lakes throughout the 5.8 million, mostly undeveloped, acres of wildlife management areas (WMAs) and wildlife and environmental areas (WEAs).

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manages these habitats that wildlife call home.

The Great Florida Birding Trail offers another unique approach to wildlife viewing.

Saturday is National Trails Day, so named by the American Hiking Association. While some people will take to more traditional park trails, the management areas and birding trail are often off the beaten path, thereby promising wilder experiences.

Deep in the southern section of the state is Fisheating Creek, a place that draws rave reviews from paddlers taking to the water trail. This Lake Okeechobee tributary is home to alligators, not houses. Swallowtail kites fly over the tree-lined banks. Paddlers will like the cool shade too.

The best place to hike there is off State Road 78, south of Lakeport. Canoe and kayak rentals are available at the FWC campground, off U.S. 27 in Palmdale. The water level is good after the recent rains.

Check out the stops along the Great Florida Birding Trail. Babcock-Webb WMA in Charlotte County still has plenty of red-cockaded woodpeckers and purple gallinules (marsh birds). This is one of the WMAs with horse trails.

Check out one of the other 489 Great Florida Birding Trail sites if you want to stay close to home. Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County is a good place in the summer. Abundant trails lead away from the swimming beaches and picnic grounds to a variety of trails, paved and not. Summer is a good time to watch beach-nesting birds, but remember to watch your step for eggs, and do not disturb birds nesting in the dunes.

For more information on these and other sites, go to Pick your wildlife trail adventure. Happy trails.

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