A wander along Lake Wauberg to the symphony of Archie Carr’s favorite frogs brought memories flooding back of gentler times.
Paynes Prairie is a major landform in North Florida, with the city of Gainesville on its north rim and the historic town of Micanopy to its south. Along Interstate 75, you can stop at the rest areas on the prairie’s rim for a look across it. It was first described by William Bartram in 1774 during his travels across Florida.
While Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park protects much of the prairie rim and the prairie itself, there are other public lands along the prairie, too. The City of Gainesville manages several parks and preserves on the north rim, including Sweetwater Wetlands, Sweetwater Preserve, and Bivens Arm. On the east side, the Alachua Conservation Trust protects the flow of Prairie Creek with Prairie Creek Preserve. The waterway flows between Paynes Prairie and Newnans Lake. Cyclists on the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail also have several unique perspectives of overlooks on the prairie from its northern bluffs.
Paynes Prairie is known for its rich diversity of reptiles and amphibians, which was why an ecopassage was constructed to lift US 441 off the prairie floor nearly two decades ago, since so many snakes, alligators, and frogs were being killed crossing the highway. The prairie also becomes a lake for long periods of time when the sinkhole that drains it clogs up. Birding and wildlife watching is always superb here, no matter which access point you use.