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Jul/Aug 2005
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Ten largest State Parks
Florida's State Park system is one of the largest in the country with 158 parks covering more than 700,000 acres

 

1) Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park (Collier County)
71,362.91 acres
Located on Janes Memorial Scenic Drive, just west of Copeland on S.R. 29
This flat, gently-sloping limestone plain is home to cypress trees and diverse animal and plant life. Attractive to visitors for its out-of-the-way location and beyond-the-usual outdoor experience, the park provides several old logging roads visitors can walk along. (239) 695-4593.

2) Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park (Okeechobee County)
51,912.65 acres
Located approximately 25 miles north of the city of Okeechobee.
One of Florida's most pristine natural areas, the scenic vistas draw visitors from all over the world and the isolation of the park makes the journey half the fun.
For a unique viewing of the park, the Buggy Tour gives visitors the opportunity to explore the largest example of Florida dry prairie in the world. Visitors will often see alligator, deer, turkey and a wide selection of birds. The buggy tour runs twice a day on weekends. (863) 462-5360.

 

3) Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park (Charlotte and Lee County)
More than 40,000 acres
Located in Southwest Florida between Englewood and Cape Coral.
The Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves are adjacent aquatic preserves within the greater Charlotte Harbor estuary complex. The preserves include the Lemon Bay Aquatic Preserve in the north, Cape Haze Aquatic Preserve, Gasparilla Sound/Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve, and southward, Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve and Pine Island Sound Aquatic Preserves. (941) 575-5861.

4) Sebastian Inlet State Park (Brevard/Indian River County)
36,642.03 acres
Located between the towns of Sebastian, Fellsmere, Palm Bay and Micco.
Passive recreational opportunities include fishing, birding, hiking, biking and primitive tent camping. Canoe launching is available at nearby county parks but is not permitted on the preserve. Two canoe landing sites are available for those who launch elsewhere and would like to visit the preserve from the river. (321) 953-5004.

5) William Beardall Tosohatchee State Reserve (Orange/Brevard County)
34,296.79 acres
Located on Taylor Creek Road in Christmas (east of Orlando).
The reserve, shaped by alternating cycles of fire and flood, is a mosaic of freshwater marshes, swamps, pine flatwoods and hardwood hammocks. Varied and unique plant communities support abundant wildlife, including rare and endangered species. Camping and hunting is permitted on Tosohatchee with the appropriate licenses, stamps and permits. (407) 568-5893.

6) Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park (Levy County)
34,065.61 acres
Located along the coast between Cedar Key and Yankee Town, accessible only by boat.
Waccasassa Bay State Preserve offers sweeping vistas of natural landscapes uninterrupted by buildings, power lines and bridges. The preserve is home to numerous rare, threatened or endangered plant and animal species and commercially important marine species. The plentiful and varied cultural resources of the preserve range from prehistoric burial mounds to historic sites of the industries that formerly thrived in the area. (352) 543-5567.

7) Myakka River State Park (Manatee/Sarasota County)
28,937.71 acres
Located nine miles east of I-75 at 13207 State Road 72, Sarasota.
One of Florida's oldest and most diverse state parks, Myakka River flows through 45 square miles of wetlands, prairies and woodlands and is popular for hiking, fishing, camping and wildlife observation.
A seven-mile scenic drive winds through shady oak palm hammocks and along the shore of the Upper Myakka Lake. More than 39 miles of hiking trails and many miles of dirt roads provide access to the remote interior. (941) 361-6511.

8) Crystal River Preserve State Park (Citrus/Levy County)
27,295.05 acres
Located at the end of State Park Drive, off US Hwy. 19. Approximately one-quarter of a mile north of the Crystal River Mall in the city of Crystal River.
The Crystal River Preserve State Park is truly a unique area on Florida's Gulf coast. The park is situated between temperate and sub-tropical climate zones, which allows for a vast selection of foliage to grow according to their location. In addition to the climatic zones, it also protects expansive grass flats that extend many miles into the Gulf. (352) 563-0450.

9) Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park (Alachua)
20,755.06 acres
Located 10 miles south of Gainesville in Micanopy, east of US 441.
If you like an abundance of opportunities in one place, you'll love Paynes Prairie. Visitors are often seen partaking in the activities of cycling, canoeing, fishing and camping along the preserve.
In the 1970s, buffalo were introduced to the prairies where they still roam today on approximately 6,000 acres. (352) 466-3397.

10) Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park (Lake/Seminole County)
16,991.10 acres
Located nine miles west of Sanford on S.R. 46 (southern entrance).
Native Americans lived here before the arrival of the Spanish in 1513, but within 200 years they were eliminated from their native land. Many mounds or "kitchen middens" are known to exist along the Wekiva River and Rock Springs Run. The mounds are the only visible remains of their presence on the reserve and are protected for future archaeological investigations. (407) 884-2008.

Visitors can stroll along the Sand Hill Nature Trail for a self-guided tour of the native Florida plants and wildlife found at the park. Canoeists can paddle on the Wekiva River. Equestrian camping is available in designated areas and can be reserved by calling Wekiwa Springs State Park. Horse stalls and corrals are available for equestrian campers.
For further information, visit www.floridastateparks.org.