Florida's Pure Water Wilderness is home to myriad species of birds, from Terns to Eagles. Discover the unspoiled hammocks, river banks, and Gulf environments birds return to every year or live in year round. Photography opportunities abound for birders and
wildlife enthusiasts alike.
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Birding and Photography

Andrews Wildlife Management Area

Just minutes from Chiefland and Fanning Springs, discover Andrews Wildlife Management Area, the largest hardwood hammock along the Lower Suwannee River. Over three thousand acres of forest are nestled against several miles of Suwannee River shoreline. Enjoy picnicking, hiking and biking along well-marked trails and stroll the boardwalk through the cypress. View and photograph deer and wild turkey from the handicap-accessible viewing blind. Capture the seasonal color palette from spring wildflowers, autumn leaves and migratory warblers. Listen for owls and cuckoos in the hammock and splashes made by leaping Gulf sturgeon in the river. The area is well-known as an exceptional birding venue and as one of the state’s premier hunting and fish destinations. Miles of unpaved roads are passable to regular vehicles. Check the web site for more information and to access the hunt calendar; high quality quota hunts take place on select weekends between September and April. During hunting days, access to the area is only open to individuals who have a quota hunt permit. Open dawn to dusk. Call (386) 758-0525.

DIRECTIONS: From Fanning Springs, travel 2.5 mi. S on US 19 to NW 160th St. Turn right (W) and follow the road to the site at the end. Signs mark the road leading to the Andrews WMA.

Cedar Key City Park and #4 Bridge

Cedar Key is one of the oldest ports in the state, and when Florida's first railroad connected it to the east coast, it became a major supplier of seafood and timber products to the northeast. Today it has become a haven for artists and writers who find the unspoiled environment inspirational to their work. Many people visit each year to walk the historic streets browse the shops and galleries, explore the back bayous and enjoy the world-famous restaurants featuring seafood fresh from local waters. Annually, thousands of visitors come to enjoy the Old Florida Celebration of the Arts in April, the Fourth of July Celebration and the October Seafood Festival.

In addition to excellent fishing, birdwatching and nearby nature trails, guides are available to take parties for off-shore trips to the outer islands. A public marina with boat docking is available

Federally protected sanctuaries, the Cedar Keys form a chain of barrier islands ideally suited to a vast range of migratory and shore birds, including the elusive white pelican, roseate spoonbill and bald eagle. The variety of natural habitats, from salt marshes to Indian shell mounds, makes this truly a nature lover's paradise.

Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge

Encompassing 800 acres and composed of 13 offshore islands in the Gulf of Mexico, ranging from 1 to 165 acres, around the town of Cedar Key, the refuge is accessible only by boat. A haven for nesting shorebirds and nature lovers alike, it includes Seahorse Key, formed as a huge sand dune many thousands of years ago. This dune is now evident as a prominent central ridge which rises abruptly to an elevation of 52 feet, the highest elevation on Florida's West coast. It is visible for miles as it is the home of the Seahorse Key Lighthouse, once used as a prison for Confederate Soldiers while Cedar Key was occupied by the Union during the Civil War.

Due to the protection efforts of the National Wildlife Refuge System, not many facilities are available for humans. Camping is not permitted on the refuge, but is available at the county campground on CR326 near the Shell Mound Unit of the adjacent Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge. Pets are allowed, but they must be on a leash and under the control of the owner at all times.

Please, note that the interior of all islands (except Atsena Otie Key) is closed to the public year-round. Seahorse Key and a 300-foot zone around the island is closed to all public entry from March 1 to June 30 every year, but accessible the rest of the year.

Cedar Key Scrub State Preserve/WMA

Sandhills and scrubs welcome the Florida scrub-jay and short-tailed hawks on the east side of the Reserve, while the west side is the Black Point Swamp has tidal creek and salt marsh birds. The Reserve is rustic and unspoiled; bring proper walking attire, sunscreen, bug repellant, and plenty of water. Limited hunting is available on site from September through November. No entrance fee. Call for dates and other conditions, (352) 543-5567.

DIRECTIONS: From Cedar Key, follow CR 24 out of town 6 miles NE..

Goethe State Forest/WMA

Maps are available at the Forest HQ or at trailheads. Most open forest roads are accessible to 2WD vehicles. Hunting pressure is very heavy November and December; wear blaze orange. Drive North Prong Rd. east to Gas Line Rd. and follow Gas Line northeast through longleaf pines. Red cockaded woodpecker cavity trees are ringed with white paint; one cluster is on the west side of Gas Line just before Apex Rd.
North-south Cow Creek and Black Prong roads also offer nice flatwoods, cypress domes and freshwater creeks. Another RCW cluster is located on the west side of Cow Creek Rd. 2.5 miles S of CR 326. Extensive, rustic hiking/ horseback riding trails are available.

DIRECTIONS: From Inglis, drive 10 miles north on US 19 to its intersection with CR 121 and CR 336.
Gas Line Road: Bear right (north) onto CR 121 and make another quick right (southeast) onto CR 336. After approximately 0.9 miles turn left (north) onto North Prong Road. Follow this road to its end at the intersection with Gas Line Road and turn left.
Cow Creek Road: Bear right (north) onto CR 121, cross CR 336 and continue approximately 1.2 miles north. Turn left onto Cow Creek Road. One of the largest living cypress trees in Florida lives off this road.
HQ is located on the east side of the forest at 9110 SE CR 337.

Open dawn to dusk. (352) 465-8585.

Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway,
Inglis Island & Spillway

The Inglis Island Trails are located in the Cross Florida Greenway’s West Region. Inglis Island was developed as part of the construction of the Inglis Lock and Barge Canal during the 1960s. This island, approximately 1,200 acres, is situated between Inglis Lock and Dam. The recreation area at the dam provides access to the trails. The trails offer views of the island’s natural communities which include cypress swamp, pine flatwoods and mixed hardwood hammocks. Cormorant, osprey, tern, pelican, anhinga, many species of duck and many more birds may be seen in this habitat.

Stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Johns River, the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway occupies much of the land formerly known as the Cross Florida Barge Canal. This 110-mile corridor encompasses a variety of natural habitats and offers an array of trails and recreation areas where visitors can experience Florida’s premier greenway.

DIRECTIONS: Take US 19 south out of Levy County (you will cross the Cross Florida Barge Canal). Turn left on Cornflower Drive. Proceed to Riverwood Drive and turn left. Proceed about 0.4 miles to the park with boat launch, dam, and foot access to Inglis Island.

Open 8:00 a.m. to dusk. (352) 463-3420.

Fanning Springs State Park

This state park, known for its swimming spring, has a boardwalk through cypress down to the Suwannee River, winding through mesic hammock. Eastern Phoebes snatch insects in open areas and a brief nature trail behind the bath house runs through broadleaf forest is nice for migrants in season, Mississippi Kites in summer. Entrance fee.

DIRECTIONS: On the west side of US 19 in Fanning Springs, 0.5 miles south of the Suwannee River bridge.

Open 8:00 a.m. to dusk. (352) 463-3420

Hart Springs Park

This small county park is situated on the banks of the Suwannee River with a short spring run. The boardwalk runs from the spring to the river, and on the river's edge for almost one-quarter mile. Wood storks and pileated woodpeckers, prothonotary warblers and bald eagles are all possible to see. Trails through thick xeric hammock lead to some open areas for meadowlarks and bobwhites. Entrance fee $2.00 per person.

DIRECTIONS: From Fanning Springs, travel 2 mi. E on SR 26. Turn left (north) on CR 232, and go to CR 344. Turn left (west), the road dead ends at the park.

Open 9:00 a.m. to sunset. Call (352) 463-3444

Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge

Shired Island Beach access offers trails through coastal hammock past mudflats and open beach good for everything from wintering shorebirds to songbird migrants making landfall in spring. Dixie Mainline is a 9-mile driving/biking/walking road through pine flatwoods, bottomland hardwoods and marsh. Gorgeous birding, but be aware that hunting use is intense on this area October through November, when biking/ hiking are not advised. Fishbone Creek offers a platform vantage of the salt marsh. Salt Creek has an ADA-accessible boardwalk to the marsh where bald eagles frequently nest. Always something to see here year-round, but be prepared for biting insects in warm weather. No entrance fees.

Shired Island Beach: Follow CR 351 from Cross City to CR 357. Turn SW and follow it all the way to the Gulf.
Dixie Mainline Terminus: On CR 357 (5 miles from the Gulf) and CR 349 (3 miles from the Gulf).
Fishbone Creek: Entrance is on the north side of CR 357 1 mile SW of the entrance for Dixie Mainline.
Salt Creek: From the CR 349 terminus of Dixie Mainline, go north 0.5 mi. and turn left (west); park at end of road in the town of Suwannee (do not block gate). Open 24 hours/day.

Headquarters Trail is a brief lowland walk through a cypress and maple swamp to a boardwalk at the water’s edge. For driving access, visit the Loop Road through dark, cool lowlands good for songbirds. Tram roads off into the swamp offer the opportunity to get out and hike. Part of this area is open to hunting, so check seasons before you arrive. Shell Mound Trail winds around a Native American midden, and can be good for songbirds while affording excellent views of the salt marsh.

Headquarters Trail: From Chiefland, take SR 19 S to CR 347. Drive W on CR 347 12 mi. Here, CR 347 meets CR 330 at a stop sign. Continue to the left on CR 347. Five miles ahead on the right, follow signs to the nature trail at the Refuge Headquarters.
Loop Road: One mile further on the right (west) side of CR 347 is the entrance to the Refuge Loop Road. This driving trail returns to CR 347 approx. 4.0 mi. further south.
Shell Mound: From Cedar Key, take CR 24 N to CR 347 and turn left (north). Follow CR 347 approximately 3 miles to CR 326. Turn left (west) and follow the signs to the Shell Mound trail at the end.

Here's a geat map. Since this is so big this is better than the standard map link in the title bar above.

Interesting places in the Refuge include:
Dixie Mainline - A birding, biking, hiking trail
Shired Island Park - Gulfside park for birding, hiking, fishing
Shell Mound - Ancient Indian shell mound and archaeological site

For information contact:
Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge
16450 NW 31st Place, Chiefland, FL 32626
(352) 493-0238

Manatee Springs State Park

A boardwalk meanders from the spring along the run to the Suwannee River, through a cypress stand good for migrants. Watch the far shore for cryptic limpkins. At the river, there is a large vulture roost, as well as an opportunity to view waders and ducks on the river. Spring is popular with swimmers. River offers more birding opportunities than upland nature trails.

DIRECTIONS: From US 19 in Chiefland, turn west onto SR 320 and follow it to the park at the end.

Open 8:00 a.m. to dusk, 365 days/year. (352) 493-6072.

The Road to Nowhere (CR 361)

This road runs for 15 undeveloped miles all the way to marshes on the Gulf where you just can't drive any more. Bird road margins, scanning pools for waders, flats for shorebirds like red knots, hardwoods for songbirds and the black needle rush marsh for elusive black rails. Do not leave the road; most adjacent land is privately owned. Beware of soft shoulder and traffic.

DIRECTIONS: From CR 51 in Steinhatchee, take CR 361 southeast out of town and follow it nearly 15 miles to the Gulf.

As this is a public road its open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Check out Birding Tours in "Eco Tours" in our Boating & Fishing Section


Great Florida Birding Trail - West section covered in the Pure Water Wilderness area.
Download the Guides (Adobe PDF) for specific maps and listings.

Thayer's Birding Software Florida Checklist - Thayer's extensive list of birds that live and migrate to Florida.

Birding.Com - Where to bird in Florida. Includes large list of links for Florida birding.

Wild Bird Photography Library Arranged by Species - On About.com's Birding Forum.

Outdoor Photo's Bird Photography Tips - From a professional bird photographer.

Nature Photographer.Net Photography Tips
- From Nature Photographers Magazine.

WildBirds.com Photography Tips - From WildBirds.com, a wild bird resource.

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Trenton, Florida.
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