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.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Weekend at Florida's Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

We returned to this great park specifically to go to the north rim and take the boardwalk out into the preserve on the La Chua trail.  We had great weather this time and it was well worth the return.

Back to the same campsite.  Very level and private.   The first two days were partly sunny with intermittent light rain.  Late Saturday and all Sunday the weather was perfect.  A bit of fall in the air.

And in the trees as the Maple leaves begin to show their fall color.

As we left the campsite for La Chua Trail three young deer crossed the road in front of us and paused before partaking of the grass. 

On the way along Hwy 441 we came upon Ecopassage Observation Boardwalk, a short boardwalk out into the preserve.  

A broad look at the preserve from the observation deck. In the distance to the left is the hammock where the La Chua Trail boardwalk starts and heads out toward the Alachua Sink to the right.  The preserve is huge.  A field of wild flowers, reeds, other plant life, animals, reptiles and birds.


Looking directly below the edge of the observation deck is a guardian of the lake.  If you are using that lily pad to hide behind, you need a bigger pad, son. 

Passing through a residential section of Gainesville we happened upon this Boulware Springs Water Works building.  There is an artesian well here that once supplied water to the city by a direct pipe tapped in 1898.

The brick reservoir for the springs which was once estimated to contribute 300,000 gallons per day to Boulware Run which flows south to Paynes Prairie providing a habitat for a diversity of birds, animals, fish, and reptiles.  It now charges the Florida aquifer at Alachua Sink.

From the parking lot at the entrance to the La Chua Trail you cross the 16 mile long Gainesville-Hawthorne rails to trails bike path.  Then you go under the remains of a bridge used by the narrow gauge Florida Southern Railway.  This once carried passengers and cattle to many destinations in Central Florida. 

The path continues toward the boardwalk and passes through an old cracker cowboy barn.

Turn the corner and you are at the beginning of the boardwalk.

The boardwalk winds out to an observation deck overlooking Alachua Sink. The trail continues as a grass trail for about a mile to an observation deck deep in the preserve.

View of the sink from near the observation deck.

A yellow butterfly searches among a stand of wildflowers next to the boardwalk for the next bud to pollinate.

This part of the sink is covered in hydrilla.

 A very ominous warning about the trail.

Looking back at the transition from boardwalk to grassy trail.

Looking forward toward the interior of the preserve. An observation deck is about a mile from this point.  Remember the signage.  One never knows what is around the bend. Gators do use the trail. As do the bison, horses and many other animals and reptiles in the preserve.

A berm off to the north.  A short walk to another section of the preserve.  And, there is another grassy path that bypasses the boardwalk back to the parking lot.

 A few of the big boys lounging along the banks.  We saw many of these guys along the way.  These are the guys people come to the trail to see.

Other things we encountered along the way.