Peek through thick curtains of Spanish moss beneath the grandeur of grandfather live oaks along the shores of an ancient lake where the Timucua once lived. 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.
Length: 0.7 mile
Lat-Lon: 29.502246, -82.269881
Fees / Permits: free
Bug factor: moderate
Beware of red ant nests along the path.
From Interstate 75 exit 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 at the Micanopy Native American Heritage Preserve.
A monument under the oaks directly across from the Micanopy Native American Heritage Preserve proclaims this as Thrasher Park, but the greater Tuscawilla Preserve was created when the Alachua Conservation Trust bought the prairie in 2006. Like the smaller park across the street, it is a site of archaeological importance. 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.
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.