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.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Return to Florida's Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park

It's been three years since we visited this great park on the southeast corner of Gainesville. Still great. There have been some improvements to the sites and bath houses which were already good, and the park in general. Met some friends here. Their first visit. Think they liked it. The campground has 48 sites available to tenters or RVers.  The 15 tent sites are set up in two sub-loops that are off the main loop. They have water and electric and a tent pad.  The remaining 33 rv/tent sites are all back-ins and have water and 50 (16 sites) or 30 amp service. No sewage at the sites.  There are two well kept bath houses.  

The sites have ample space between, most have foliage in between and are angled for privacy.  Our site, #44, was shady, level limerock and had a lot of foliage and space on either side. The fire pit and picnic table are offset from the main space. The site drained very well when the rains came.

The loop is paved and navigable for big rigs.

Our backyard.

The main road from the campground to the visitor center and observation tower is paved and is maybe 2 miles. Nice bike ride. 

Part of the Chacala Trail (6.5 miles long loop) and part of the Jackson's Gap (1.2 miles) Trail parallel the road on the west side. It is part swamp and part hardwood.

On the east side is Sawgrass Pond.

Remnants of a tree after a prescribed burn. Hanging on.

 A wary deer watches us pass by on the road.

At the end of the road is the Visitor's Center.
Inside are displays of the area culture, artifacts,
a video room,

and a multipurpose area. Today the rangers are hosting a group of school kids. Here a group is interactive with a ranger with an interesting show and tell.

Also there are displays of the natural habitat,


and indigenous species.

The rear of the center has an observation deck and a large lawn area.

From the deck or lawn area one can see the vast prairie.

But, for the best view climb to the top of the tower. There is a midway deck and on the top deck fixed benches and a sliding bench to rest those weary legs.

What a view. But, we saw no bison, nor wild horses.  Assuming they found a dry spot somewhere.

From the observation tower take the .75 mile Wacahoota Trail.

It meanders through a hardwood hammock.

The abundance of rain this month produced many forms of fungus along the trail.

Along the trail were a variety of small plants.

Upon entering the trail we spotted this active baskeball size hornet's nest.

You're back to the center when you pass through a section of dog fennel.  Journey over.  Dog fennel was used by the Indians to ward off mosquitoes.  They would throw it on their campfire and it's rumored there wouldn't be a mosquito within a quarter mile.  Worth a try, but don't get caught cutting while in the state park.  Also, they used it as a spice in soups and stews.  Smells and tastes like dill.

Take a different road at the campground entrance and you end up at a really nice day park.  Playground,

pavilions, huge grill pit, rest rooms,

an amphitheater for events and ranger lectures,

and a boat ramp.  Check the sky.  Big storm approaching. 

At the end of the parking lot is a short paved path to a bridge and fishing pier. Across the lake is Lake Wauberg North Park. Affiliated with the Univ of FL. Swimming, boating, fishing, climbing wall, etc.

 Look the other direction and sunny skies. But they didn't last long.  If you go to the left there is an area with picnic benches and grills and a restroom.  To the right is back to the parking lot.

Along the bridge were a plethora of these plants swarming with bees after the pollen.  No gators in this area this time.

Along the Jackson's Gap Trail we passed by the remains of a building.  Assume it was a house by the fireplace remains.  Don't know if it burned or was just abandoned and rotted away.  The floor timbers are all the wood that remains.

 Nearby is what looked to be a well.


Ever wonder what happens to old rusted campfire grills?