In all the years I’ve been visiting or crossing Paynes Prairie, I’ve seen an abundance of wildlife. Bald eagles in pairs. Sandhill cranes by the hundreds. Huge flocks of white pelicans. The ubiquitous alligators. Wild turkeys and deer dashing across the park road. Skinks a foot long. But in all my attempts to come up with a look at the famed Cracker horses and bison, I’ve only come up with road apples on the trails. Until now.
A visit to the observation tower the other morning led to a truly open vista, with the waters once again peeled away to reveal the grasslands beneath. And there, in the distance, grazing on the prairie, not just one horse, but a family with foal. What a thrill!
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is a significant natural landmark along US 441 between Micanopy and Gainesville. For wildlife watching, it can’t be beat.