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Good For Kids

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A sunset view of Lake Wauberg on the western side of the park, this lake is open for canoeing and kayaking.
Photo Credit: guyonthego

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

100 Savannah Boulevard Micanopy, Florida 32667
The visitor center is open 9am-4pm, and the park is open from 8am to dark.
352-466-3397 Half day
January 2013 Fall, Winter
$0-9 Micanopy Florida
Website Nature State Parks
First review
Established in 1971 as the first state preserve in Florida and named after a Seminole Indian chief, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is a 22,000 acre park near Gainesville. The park has an expansive prairie, which is bisected by highways on the east. Also, there are forested areas and some lakes. Hiking and biking are the main activities here. Facilities include a museum, observation tower, multiple trails and several campgrounds.

Paynes Prairie was historically a large savannah, prone to flooding in wet years and burning in dryer ones. It was home to Indians for many years and was later used by the Spanish for cattle ranching. In the 1800s the savannah’s drainage became blocked and a shallow lake formed. Steamboats then transported goods across the lake for about 20 years until the water drained and the area reverted to grassland. More recently, small herds of horses, cattle and bison were introduced to provide a better historical perspective. There are currently around 50 bison.

The prairie is the most impressive aspect of this park. There is a short prairie boardwalk and observation platform off of Highway 441. Near the visitor center there is a 50 foot observation tower with good views of the grassland at the top. The visitor center museum has limited displays but there is an informative 20 minute orientation video. Hiking is the best way to see the park. The Wacahoota Trail is a short, level path that passes through a hammock environment and leads to the observation tower. The Cone’s Dike Trail offers access to the prairie. It is a flat and well maintained trail/road that skirts the prairie’s periphery and you can walk it for miles. The short and easy Lake Trail offers decent views of Lake Wauberg (see picture at right). This park was an enjoyable place to take a walk and learn about the prairie habitat. It will mostly appeal to outdoor types and in particular those who like hiking. Fall or winter are better times of year to visit as there are fewer bugs.
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