Five main rivers flow through Florida's Pure Water Wilderness area, irrigating its fertile land, providing a perfect eco habitat for numerous species and creating a perfect place for natural recreation.
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Inglis and Yankeetown - Bird Creek Park and Beach

Tucked away just a few minutes north of Crystal River, is a quiet, untouched, nature lover’s paradise. The towns of Inglis and Yankeetown are densely populated with forests, waterways, and wildlife. Located on the banks of the Withlacoochee River and a short distance from the Gulf of Mexico, this exciting wilderness is just an hour or two from major metropolitan cities such as Tampa, Orlando, and Ocala.

Charming little Bird Creek park is located where the Withlacoochee River flows into the Gulf of Mexico in Levy County, providing ample opportunities for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. It offers canoeing, swimming, fishing, picnic sites and boat ramps. Access: Take U.S. 40 (Follow That Dream Parkway) west from U.S. Highway 19 in Inglis, Bird Creek Park is in Yankeetown at the end of U.S. 40.
For more information call (352) 486-5127.

Cedar Key

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.

Shell Mound

The Shell Mound Unit of Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge is adjacent to Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. This unique feature was created by Archaic period Eastern Woodland Indian cultures by discarding oyster and clam shells they used as a food source. The area was inhabited by this culture for at least 1,000 years from about 450 to 1,800 years ago. Once used as a source of materials for road construction (prior to Refuge ownership) the mound is now protected from all but foot traffic, attracting about 60,000 visitors per year, yet it never seems like anyone else is there.

This is a sea kayakers playground, a shallow ocean area often only inches deep over hidden oyster bars, located among barrier islands and thick with wildlife. For inexperienced sea kayakers, these serene waters are a safe, accessible place to get comfortable with ocean kayaking without the interference of constant motor boat traffic. Experienced kayakers will love the area for its tranquil beauty or as a jump off point for greater adventures, such as paddling five miles up the coast to the Suwannee River, or wilderness camping on Clark Island, just an hour paddle north of Shell Mound. Phone (352) 221-4466

Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge

From the mouth of the Suwannee River, the refuge fronts 26 miles of the Gulf of Mexico. Protecting 36,000 acres of wetlands and 16,000 acres of uplands, the refuge provides ample opportunities for exploration. Located along the southern edge of the Big Bend Region of Florida's West coast, Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge is bisected by the Suwannee River, and it offers the visitor year-round wildlife observation, hiking and photography. There are 40 miles of improved roads (primary) scattered through the refuge that are open to motorized vehicles. Bicycling is also allowed on all refuge roads. Be aware that hunting is allowed in the refuge and is intense in October and November. Pets are allowed on a leash and controlled at all times.

Check out the Dixie Mainline - A biking, hiking, birding trail

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

Secluded at the heart of the beautiful and wild Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, this unique small community overlooks the river, salt and fresh water creeks and man-made canals. Experience nature at its untouched best while enjoying our waterfront accommodation, great seafood or down-home restaurants, marinas and expert fishing guides.

An unparalleled area of diverse natural environments, the wild and scenic estuary forms a natural blending zone for its marine and freshwater habitats and a division between the temperate and neo-tropical regions of the Gulf coast. The river mouth opens to a scenic vista of tidal marshes dotted with small coastal islands, an area of shallow waters or "flats" and oyster bars teaming with fish. Natural salt marches and tidal flats attract thousands of shorebirds while acting as a nursery for fish, shrimp and shellfish.

One of the largest undeveloped delta-estuarine systems in the United States, the area is protected by the 52,935-acre Lower Suwannee Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was established in 1979 and covers both sides of the Suwannee River upriver for almost fifteen miles and 26 miles of Gulf habitat. The overall goal of the refuge is to provide optimum conditions to manage and protect the natural heritage of the area, while giving as much public access as possible.

Shired Island

Part of the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, the Shired Island Boat Ramp & Trail provide access to the Gulf, shoreline fishing, and a short trail to a 7,000 year-old archaeology site. You'll want to bring your camera.

For anglers without vessels, the ample sea wall provides plenty of shore-fishing opportunities. There are no nearby stores or tackle shops, so come prepared.

After enjoying the walk out to the point, you'll see millions and millions of sun-bleached shells. Ancient cultures of fishing people discarded their meal debris (oysters, clams, scallops, fishbones, etc) where they ate. Millennia of this accumulation gave height to the island that was once merely a mudflat at the edge of the Gulf.

Please, stay on the beach and leave the island interior to the wildlife. Enjoy a day of discovery at your National Wildlife Refuge.

Horseshoe Beach

Horseshoe Beach is an isolated, laid back, friendly fishing village located on the Gulf of Mexico west of Gainesville. Our city limits sign reads - Welcome to "Florida's Last Frontier". We are 20 miles to the closest major highway.

The Horseshoe Beach area was settled in the early 1800s. The land was owned by lumber interests until 1935, when C.C. Douglas and Burton Butler purchsed the land for $324, since the lumber company was pressuring the residents to "move on". The Butler/Douglas union made it possible for the settlers to own their occupied property. They offered each resident the lot he was living on for $10. The town was incorporated in 1963. The town now has a restaurant, full-service marina, ice cream shop, two churches, a number of comfortable rental cabins, a waterfront park, and a general store.

Jena Unit - Big Bend Wildlife Management Area

The Jena Unit of the big Bend Wildlife Managenment Area is a nice side trip when you're in the Jena/Steinhatchee area. Its one of the units of over 5 million acres managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as Wildlife Management Areas for both recreational and conservation purposes.

The area is part of the Big Bend Saltwater Paddling Trail. Check it out at

One of the most interesting aspects of this trip is the variations of eco-systems. you're already down far enough to be out of the Oak Hammock that occupies most of Dixie County so when you arrive at the entrance you'll be in pretty much pine forests and driving through some beautiful tall stands of pine trees.

When you get closer to the marshes that border this region of the Gulf of Mexico the tall pines open up and you go into more of what's called in Florida, "Scrub", with a few pines here and there. Great habitat for the elusive and rare Scrub Jay. Finally you'll break out into the mysterious and ever changing salt marsh flats.


The city of Steinhatchee is a complacent fishing community which has retained its pristine natural surroundings and serenity for over a century. The Steinhatchee River is renowned for its surplus of trout and redfish, as the river’s uncongested waters challenge the most skilled anglers. The river also has a deep water port adequate for larger vessels and off-shore fishing excursions.

Steinhatchee combines the ambiance of the 19th century with the conveniences of the 20th. Victorian waterfront homes line the shores and footpaths and gardens sequester the surroundings. Steinhatchee is often referred to as "The Best Kept Secret in Florida." Come find out why.

Jumping to the 1700's, the Seminoles, Creek and other Muskogean peoples continued coming down to Florida. The English were also exploring and here again no major development was undertaken. In the 1780's the Spanish government encouraged migration into Florida through land grants. The Seminoles gradually established a foothold in Florida -- and with it a hostile environment which brought the eventual confrontation with the United States.



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