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Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

I recently visited Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park near Micanopy in central Florida. It is interesting to note that after living in Florida for more than forty years that I just recently learned of this huge wildlife area.  

I started off the morning hiking into the prairie from the north on La Chua Trail which the state website describes as  "three miles round-trip from the North Rim of the Prairie to the observation tower. This trail provides scenic views of wet-prairie and marsh habitat including Alachua Sink and Alachua Lake." 

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Gators as seen from La Chua Trail at Paynes Prairie
Gators as seen from La Chua Trail at Paynes Prairie

Along the side of the trail you can see hundreds of alligators.

Gator Backs off the Trail in Front of Me
Gator Backs off the Trail in Front of Me

Frequently the gators will crawl up onto the grass of the trail to sleep in the sun. I shot this photo as the big guy was backing back off the trail in front of me to return to the lake.

Gator Re-Enters The Water
Gator Re-Enters The Water

Here he is as he re-enters the water.

 

Another Gator at Paynes Prairie
Another Gator at Paynes Prairie

 

Red Wing Blackbird at Paynes Prairie
Red Wing Blackbird at Paynes Prairie

Many birds make their home on the prairie. Here is a red-winged blackbird that I photographed during my hike. I also saw herons, egrets, storks, cranes, and many birds that I couldn't identify.

The prairie is also home to wild horses and bison. I had hoped to see them during my hike on La Chua Trail but they never appeared.

Grazing Bison at Paynes Prairie
Grazing Bison at Paynes Prairie

 However, that afternoon I entered the park at the southern entrance and was able to see about six bison grazing in the distance. I shot this photo from the observation tower at the south end of the prairie. As luck would have it, when I arrived at the visitor center near the tower, the folks there were saying the bison had been grazing very close to the tower just minutes before I got there. They had retreated to about a half-mile away by the time I arrived. I was interested to learn that bison were native to this area.

 You can learn more about Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park at the Florida State Parks website and Friends of Paynes Prairie's website.

I would love it if you checked out more of my photos at my photo site, Photography by Allen Forrest.

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