CLOSED DANGEROUS flooding from Hurricane Ian as of Oct 1.
Sweeping along the northeastern shore of Lake Jesup where it connects with the main flow of the St. Johns River, the Cameron Tract is mainly open prairie with palm hammocks and a few oak hammocks.
The highest perspective you can get on this area is crossing the bridge over the strait along SR 46 driving west and looking southwest. There are times when the river has risen and we’ve seen it entirely inundated.
Although the tract itself is quite large, the trailhead off Cameron Blvd offers the only public access to it other than paddling along the shoreline by putting in at Cameron Wight Park along SR 46 at the bridge.
This is a superb short hike for both birding and wildflowers, but there is a lot of air traffic overhead because of its proximity of a major airport.
Resources for exploring the area around Lake Jesup
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Length: 1 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.760573, -81.213720
Address: 3823 Cameron Blvd, Sanford
Land manager: St. Johns River Water Management District
Open 24 hours. Leashed dogs welcome. The trail is multi-use and can be tricky to follow.
Depending on current leases, there may be free range cattle here.
When the lake floods enough to dunk the trail significantly, the District will post it closed at the trailhead kiosk. You can also check their website for any closures.
Follow Lake Mary Blvd east of US 17/92 in Sanford towards the Orlando/Sanford International Airport. After passing the airport entrance road on the left, watch for Cameron Blvd crossing the road. Turn right, and the trailhead entrance is immediately on your left. You can also approach via Lake Mary Blvd East from the intersection of SR 46 and SR 415.
When we first found this trail, it was a surprise it was so close to the Orlando Sanford International Airport entrance.
A decade later, with surrounding ranches and woods turning to subdivisions, it’s one of the last open spaces left in this corner of Sanford that was formerly its most rural area.
Follow the berm around the retention pond to the kiosk for an overview of hike on their map. Alligator flag pokes out of a low spot to the right, signifying a floodplain forest in the trees below.
Leaving the kiosk, keep following the berm around the pond. In fall, clusters of swamp sunflowers bloom along the edge of the berm, putting on a showy display.
Keep following the berm around its curve until you see a gate straight ahead. Enter through the gate and close it behind you. You may not see cattle, but you will find cow patties.
Turn right and look for the red diamond marker on a post. Some are on posts, others are on trees. You’ll need to scout for them as the trail may not be well-worn or mowed.
The trail follows the rim of this first small prairie along the edge of a hammock. Look out across the grassy expanse to take in the view.
This open grassland looks dry, but looks can be deceiving. There isn’t a lot of elevation, so after a rain, it can be soggy.
The trail turns away from the prairie to duck into the shade of oaks and palms along its edge. Palms and oaks grow tightly together in the hammock.
Turning towards the prairie again, the trail offers more views across it, and a nice array of swamp sunflowers in fall.
While walking across a corner of the open prairie, look into the grasses as well as across them to notice the less-prominent wildflowers, like Florida petunia and blue-eyed grass.
The view to the right beyond the palms reveals the line of Lake Jesup in the distance. This is as close as you get to it along this hike.
Being near its exchange of waters with the St. Johns River, the floodplain of Lake Jesup is quite broad here.
The trail leaves that broad view to concentrate its effort on circling this much smaller prairie. Look for the next marker on a fencepost in the prairie.
Walking beneath a row of cabbage palms, one marked with a red diamond, you continue past another peek out to the broader prairie along Lake Jesup, about a half mile into the hike.
Duck into the hammock under a curtain of Spanish moss to find the next red diamond on a post. Walking in this hammock between the prairies, you’re treated to more views out towards the lake.
The trail continues along this boundary, heading towards another row of tall cabbage palms.
Sprays of wildflowers emerge from the prairie grasses. A metal post holds a red marker that leads you through a gap in the hammock.
Walking through the gap, you emerge at the original prairie again. The rim is lined with cabbage palms.
Look for the next marker on a post out in the prairie, leading you back towards the fence with the gate.
Pass through the gate again and close it behind you. Follow the berm around the retention pond back past the kiosk to reach the trailhead.
Learn more about Lake Jesup Conservation Area
Protecting large swaths of marshy shoreline, the Lake Jesup Conservation Area filters runoff from surrounding suburbia while providing places to hike along Lake Jesup
See our photos of the Lake Jesup Cameron Tract
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
For the broadest panorama along the south shore of Lake Jesup, follow this mile-long loop through lush oak hammocks and open prairies in a rural corner of Sanford
For a quick dip into the beauty of the St. Johns River floodplain, the 1.6 mile Kratzert Trail offers a walk beneath ancient oaks and cabbage palms of enormous size
Just east of Osteen, Hickory Bluff Preserve provides a 1.5-mile loop to a bluff of notable size along a scenic stretch of the St. Johns River