Visiting Florida's state parks and beyond in our Roadtrek. This is how we saw it all. Hopefully, the posts will give you some useful information. Questions and comments are welcome.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Weekend at Florida's Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

A large park with 41 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails ranging from .3 mile to 16 miles in length, paved and unpaved.  

Our campsite was fully shaded and off by itself for great privacy.  Only problem is the day it rained we found it didn't drain too well and for a while had standing water at the back of the site.  This is a great site for our small unit.  All sites are back-in and full to partial shade.  The campground name, by the way, is:  Puc Puggy.............OOOH Kay.   Puc Puggy (flower picker) was the name given to William Bartram by the Seminoles when he visited Payne's Prairie in 1774.

A little further around the camp road from us was a paved loop for tenting.  One of four well secluded tent loops, each has 3 to 4 sites. Different set-up than I've seen in any other state park.  Interesting.

 Between us and the tent loop is a long paved trail to the picnic area and a boat ramp. A lot of the trails are paved and used by hikers and bikers.  A couple of the lengthy trails have an equestrian path along the edge of the trail paving. 

The picnic area has an amphitheater where group campfires are held, pavilions, playground, picnic tables and bbq grills for the campers or day visitors.

Early morning on Lake Wauberg by the picnic area.

The boat ramp.  Pretty basic.  Watch for gators at the water's edge.

Lake Wauberg

Leaving the parking lot of the picnic area is a bridge that crosses a connector from Saw Grass Pond to Lake Wauberg.  This becomes Lake Trail, a sandy infrequently used as a service road.  It is firm enough for easy biking in addition to hiking.  

The saw grass pond.  I imagine it is a place you would not want to wander through.  Stay on the trail.

On the Lake Trail we met a young buck.  Kind of a stand off as to who was going to  move first.  In an attempt to get closer for a better photo he decided I was close enough and went on his way.

The Visitor Center is really nice with a seating area overlooking the lawn in the foreground and ultimately the trail head for Jackson's Gap Trail and Cone's Dike Trail, and Chacala Pond.

At the front door of the center is an example of how bees make their home in the trees.  Ever so important in the pollenization of the local flora.

Inside the center are a theater that shows videos of the prairie basin, its history and flora and fauna, many interesting photos and reading material and several examples of the wildlife in the area.  Yes, there are bison at the preserve.  Bison, not buffalo.  

To the left of the center is the trailhead for Wacahoota Trail.   This is the shortest of the trails in the park and a nice short walk.

 Walking back to get our bikes we were challenged by this little guy about 4 inches long.  As we approached he didn't give ground.  Just hunched up and stared us down.  Feisty little Eastern Fence Lizard.  I mean, he was not moving.  His sidewalk.

Also, at the center is a 50 foot observation tower.  It overlooks the prairie basin.  Under reconstruction there is no known date of completion. Maybe next visit.  This is the best chance to see the bison and wild horses roaming the basin.

 This is the campground road, but it could be a paved trail in this park. The trails are very good here.  

This just fascinated me.  A green glowing cypress in a green glowing pool. Will I see 3-eyed frogs, fish, whatever?  Could this be drainage from the Springfield Power Company?

There are many miles of trails in the preserve.  Since we were here in the rainy season we opted not to do a lot of hiking or biking on the unpaved trails. One of the trails is a 16 mile paved bike trail with multiple trailheads; Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail.  We are booked in September in hopes the trails have dried up.  One trail we will definitely visit is La Chua, a three mile round trip trek to Alachua Sink and the center of the prairie marsh.  The hike includes a lengthy boardwalk with an observation platform at the end of the trail providing a panoramic view of the basin and an opportunity to see abundant wildlife. See you then.