Wide open spaces for wintering waterfowl: that’s the primary purpose of Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge, with 21,500 acres snuggled against Spring Garden Run (the outflow from De Leon Springs) and the St. Johns River. Closest to the parking area, trails follow berms around impoundments where more than 200 species of birds have been spotted; observation towers enable you to take in sweeping views. The trail system extends to the northwest beyond the impoundments through oak hammocks and hydric hammocks to reach Spring Garden Run.
Location: De Leon Springs
Length: Up to 6 miles
Lat-Long: 29.106886, -81.370921
Type: loop and round-trip
Fees / Permits: free
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: moderate to extreme
Restroom: at the visitor center
Open sunrise to sunset. Dogs not permitted. Be alert for alligators along the impoundments. Where the trails leave the dikes, they are subject to flooding if the St. Johns River is high. Mosquitoes can be fierce—wear insect repellent! Winter is the best season for birding.
Located along the entrance road, the visitor center and nature store, run by the Friends of Lake Woodruff, is open Nov-Jun from 9 -5 Monday through Saturday, and on a non-scheduled basis the rest of the year. Call ahead (386-985-4673) during the off-season months to find out if it is open before you arrive.
From US 17 in De Leon Springs, drive south on Grand Ave and watch for the park signs. Turn right on Mud Lake Rd and follow it to the end to reach the parking area nearest the impoundments.
Most folks who visit the refuge walk the dike trails around the impoundments, but there’s a lot more to explore. The Hammock Trail leads you through a dense upland hammock, and the Pine Island Trail heads out past the observation tower to the pine flatwoods of Jones Island, leading you down an old road to Pontoon Landing on Spring Garden Run.