Travel Guide to Florida

2013 Travel Guide to Florida

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FEATURED LINKS close in this collection of springs in the middle of a broad river. A special rehabilitation center for injured manatees is nearby at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, where manatees and other native Florida wildlife can be seen daily. AMONG THE ANCIENTS Ancient cypress trees attract rare species of birds that require them for roosting and nesting, leading to delightful discoveries in Florida's oldest forests. At Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, a virgin stand of bald cypress provides shelter for a rookery of the endangered wood stork. Florida's most beautiful boardwalk trail meanders for more than two miles through this wonderland of ancient swamp forest, home to the rare and delicate ghost orchid, glimpsed some summers in the high canopy. In the midst of busy Central Florida, a cruise with Premier Boat Tours down the Dora Canal sweeps you back in time to a slice of a primordial river canopied by massive cypresses. Otters slip across logs while osprey wheel overhead with their latest catch. The swallow-tailed kite, symbol of the Great Florida Birding Trail, is most commonly seen along the Suwannee River and its tributaries, where these showy raptors roost in the tallest of cypresses. A paddle down the river on the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail is an expedition into the heart of wild North Central Florida, 170 miles of hidden springs, forgotten beaches, and limestone bluffs tapering off to swamp forests along the Gulf of Mexico. Five river camps provide screened tent platforms and restroom facilities. American alligator on the banks of the Suwannee River The search for the ivory-billed woodpecker focuses on the ghostly cypress swamps of the Choctawhatchee River basin in Northwest Florida. Canoeing along Holmes Creek surrounds you in the ancient grandeur of this untouched forest, with watercraft available at the Holmes Creek Canoe Livery. ISLANDS OF DIVERSITY An island chain stood above ancient seas before Florida emerged from its oceanic cradle. Today, these high, sandy ridges in the Florida Peninsula host endangered plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. In Central Florida's Ocala National Forest, crystalline springs teeming with aquatic life punctuate the largest sand pine scrub forest in the world, a high, dry, desert-like habitat. Near Orlando, Lyonia Preserve protects the Florida scrub-jay, a colorful and friendly bird that only inhabits diminutive scrub forests. It is one of the few places to observe them up close. The Nature Conservancy's Tiger Creek Preserve protects a swath of the Lake Wales Ridge, nearly 5,000 acres devoted to rare plants such as cutthroat grass and rare animals, such as the Florida sand skink, which "swims" beneath the sand. GATOR GROWL For a close-up look at Florida's most feared creature—the alligator—in its native habitat, a hike on the La Chua Trail at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in North Central Florida features gators en masse at the home of the Florida Gators—Gainesville. Wetlands parks provide excellent alligator-spotting opportunities. STATEWIDE Florida National Scenic Trail Great Florida Birding Trail Hawkwatch International SOUTHEAST Big O Airboat Tours Billie Swamp Safari Crane Point Museum and Native Center Curry Hammock State Park Green Cay Nature Center and Wetlands Gumbo Limbo Nature Center Indian Key Historic State Park John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Loggerhead Marinelife Center National Key Deer Refuge Shark Valley Tram Tours The Turtle Hospital The Wakodahatchee Wetlands SOUTHWEST Babcock Wilderness Adventures Big Cypress National Preserve Clyde Butcher's Big Cypress Gallery Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Everglades National Park J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Reserve Mote Marine Laboratory The Dolphin Explorer 2013 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 75

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