Take A Hike – at Gainesville’s Sweetwater Wetlands Park!

February 23rd, 2018 by Corey A Edwards

Sweetwater Wetlands ParkSweetwater Wetlands Park in Gainesville, Fl is more than 125 acres of man-made wetland habitat. Designed to improve water quality and act as a wildlife preserve, the park has since become one of North Central Florida’s best birding areas!

Not too long ago, we told you about the amazing wildlife and scenery to be found at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. Well, one the reasons Paynes Prairie Preserve is so pristine is due to Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

Prior to the creation of Sweetwater Wetlands, the area’s water quality was beginning to suffer. Further, ranchers in the 1930s dug a ditch to drain part of Paynes Prairie in order to expand grazing areas. The ditch they dug fed directly to Alachua Sink and dehydrated more than 1,300 acres of prairie wetlands.

Over the decades, the Alachua Sink, which directly connects to the Floridan Aquifer, built up an excess of nitrogen from all the urban runoff and wastewater. Soon, it was clear something must be done to reverse this damage.

The solution was the Paynes Prairie Sheetflow Restoration Project. The project’s mission was to reinvigorate the natural water filtration via the restoration of wetland habitat along the northern rim of Paynes Prairie. At the same time, they created an environmentally friendly park, filled with plants and animals: Sweetwater Wetlands Park!

Sweetwater Wetlands, which opened in 2015, is shaped like the head of an alligator. The park’s 125+ acres include 3.5 miles of trails and boardwalks, lush landscapes, and viewing platforms. Many say that the man-made park provides the best birding in Alachua County. Even better than the nearby La Chua Trail in Paynes Prairie!

More than 200 species of both resident and migratory birds can be seen here. So many, in fact, that there is even a Sweetwater Wetlands Park Bird Checklist you can download. The list will let you know which species to look for and help you to keep track of all you’ve seen. The park is a thriving habitat with lots of wildlife besides birds, including butterflies, alligators, bison, and even Florida Cracker horses.

Signs throughout the park inform you about the various animals that can be seen here in different seasons. The park also offers tours and events during the year. Learn more on the park’s activities web page.

Sweetwater Wetlands Park

325 SW Williston Road, Gainesville, FL 32608
Open year ’round, 7am to Sunset
Visit Sweetwater Wetlands Park online at www.sweetwaterwetlands.org.

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