Protecting nearly 600 acres on the rim of Tuscawilla Prairie, a complex of wetlands along the edge of Florida’s oldest inland city, Micanopy, Tuscawilla Preserve is an excellent birding destination.
The greater Tuscawilla Preserve was created when the Alachua Conservation Trust bought the prairie in 2006. Its 500 acres includes small Thrasher Park, a picnic spot along the prairie rim.
Length: 0.7 mile loop
Trailhead: 29.502246, -82.269881
Fees / Permits: free
Land Manager: Alachua Conservation Trust
Park at the Micanopy Native American Heritage Preserve, where there is a gravel parking area. Leashed dogs welcome. No bicycles permitted on these trails. Beware of red ant nests along the path.
From Interstate 75 exit 374, Micanopy, follow CR 234 east for 0.6 mile to NW Seminary Avenue. Turn right and drive 0.7 mile through this historic residential district to NE Cholokka Boulevard, which is flanked by the historic downtown. Turn right and continue along the road as it leaves town and continues 0.5 mile to the parking area on the left.
It wasn’t that many decades ago that you’d see Tuscawilla Lake from US 441, but it’s all but disappeared in modern times.
The prairie that remains is a gathering place for migratory sandhill cranes. In a single visit, we’ve counted over a hundred flocked together.
Cross the street. A monument under the oaks directly across from the parking area proclaims this as Thrasher Park. Like the Micanopy Native American Heritage Preserve, it is a site of archaeological importance.
The trail system is short, but enables you to make a loop beneath the ancient oaks. Turn right at the entrance kiosk to follow the mowed path west. Stay to the right at the first junction to keep on the outer loop.
The understory is very open, making for scenic views from a variety of perspectives beneath the moss-draped oaks. Passing a stile out to the road, the trail begins its curve to the prairie rim, entering taller grasses.
In fall, the Florida myrtle burst into puffs of white blossoms that eventually shed and float through the air.
Passing a side trail into the prairie, you reach a T junction. Turn right to follow the trail into a beauty spot under the ancient live oaks.
At the next intersection, you can see a picnic bench and the entrance kiosk. Keep right to follow the eastern loop out along the shore of the prairie and back through the oaks to the road.
Our slideshow of hiking Tuscawilla Preserve
In addition to the trail directly across the road at the trailhead, these are other nearby locations with excellent birding.
A worthwhile wander on water management lands, this loop hike at Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve hits the highlights of this colorful 2,850-acre preserve.
Circling Levy Prairie at Barr Hammock Preserve provides a glimmer of understanding of the chain of prairies that William Bartram saw during his 1774 traverse of the region
Protecting a massive natural basin of prairie between Micanopy and Gainesville, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park combines panoramic views with wildlife watching along its trails
Trail Map (PDF) Official Website