People come to Florida for lots of reasons but one of the top reasons given is our amazing wildlife. The state is home to a colorful array of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, amphibians, and others. Getting out and seeing some of our state’s unique inhabitants up close in their natural habitat is a truly worthwhile experience.
Paynes Prairie Preserve is as interesting as many of our wild neighbors – and a great place to get out and see them! The park is biologically, geologically, and historically unique.
Paynes Prairie Basin occasionally fills with water. Sometimes a lot of water! Between 1871 to 1891, Alachua Lake at the center of the park grew deep enough for shallow draft steamboats! The park’s natural drainage has been modified over the decades by several canals. These have reduced the basin’s normal water intake by half.
In 1970, the state of Florida acquired the land and began the process of restoring a more natural environment. Paynes Prairie park was Florida´s first state preserve and is also a National Natural Landmark.
The preserve is home to more than 20 different biological communities. Alligators, bison, horses, and nearly 300 species of birds thrive here. People love to come and watch the alligators loll in the long grass and hunt the waterways. Birders will goggle at the great variety of birds: anhinga, white ibis, black cormorants, blue heron, belted kingfisher, sandhill cranes, and many, many others.
One of the big surprises for many are the bison. Many don’t think of bison living in north central Florida but fossil records show they once grazed here in large numbers. Today around 50 bison roam Paynes Prairie Preserve.
The park offers 4 observation platforms, including a 50 foot tower near the Visitor Center. These allow you an excellent vantage point to view the park’s wildlife undisturbed. The platforms will also treat you to a rare experience in non-coastal Florida: wide open vistas! Paynes Prairie Preserve is an amazing place to enjoy sunrises, sunsets, and clear, starry nights.
Visitors will enjoy exploring the park’s 8 trails, including the 16 mile long, paved Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail. Hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, fishing, and boating are all available here. The Visitor Center is open from 9am to 4pm daily and offers a variety of interpretive exhibits.
If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, You owe it to yourself to get out and discover Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park!
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
100 Savannah Blvd, Micanopy, FL 32667
You can visit Paynes Prairie online at www.floridastateparks.org.
Paynes Prairie Lodging
Hampton Lake Bed & Breakfast is only 30 minutes’ drive from Paynes Prairie Park. In fact, we’re only 14 miles from Gainesville Regional Airport and just 20 miles from the UF Gators and Ben Hill Griffin Stadium! Our contemporary, Florida, lakeside inn is your best bet for top-tier North Florida Lodging. Best of all, we’re located along the shores of a natural cypress lake that you can enjoy during your stay! Book your stay at Hampton Lake Bed & Breakfast today!