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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Along the side of the trail you can see hundreds of alligators.
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.
Here he is as he re-enters the water.
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.
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.
I would love it if you checked out more of my photos at my photo site, Photography by Allen Forrest.
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