Today a friend and I set out with our cameras to Paynes Prairie, in Gainesville, FL to photograph some wildlife. You can almost always count on seeing some alligators, and although I have been told all my life that there are wild horses on the prairie I’ve never seen them…until today! Today I got to see three of the wild horses, alligators, and a blue heron (who we watched catch a fish and fly away). There are also bison on the prairie, which I also have never seen, so I will have to return.
Paynes Prairie is biologically, geologically and historically unique. This park became Florida´s first state preserve in 1971 and is now designated as a National Natural Landmark. Noted artist and naturalist William Bartram called it the great Alachua Savannah when he wrote about his visit to the prairie in 1774.
More than 20 distinct biological communities provide a rich array of habitats for wildlife and livestock, including alligators, bison, horses and more than 270 species of birds. Exhibits and an audio-visual program at the visitor center explain the area´s natural and cultural history. A 50-foot-high observation tower near the visitor center provides a panoramic view of the preserve.
Eight trails provide opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and bicycling, including the 16 mile long, paved Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail. Fishing on Lake Wauburg is allowed, and a boat ramp provides access for canoes and boats with electric motors. Gasoline powered boats are not allowed. Full-facility campsites are available for overnight visitors. Annual special events include Stargazing Party, Paynes Prairie 5K, and Fire Fest. Other events and ranger programs are available on weekends, November through April. For more information about Paynes Prairie visit Florida State Parks or Friends of Paynes Prairie.