“Is it a trail?” When people first learn of the Florida Wildlife Corridor and our #Glades2Gulf Expedition, this is often the question asked. I answer that the Corridor is wider than a trail; it’s a broad swath of habitat that connects even larger land areas important for wildlife, watersheds, and people.
Still, in planning our travel route through the Corridor for our 1000-mile expeditions, we find and follow existing trails where available, just as wildlife do. In our daily journeys thus far (today is Expedition Day 35 of 70—the half-way point!), we regularly see prints from bobcats, raccoons, river otters, birds, deer, feral hogs, and other species who use the same trails we’re on (see our full species sightings list at the bottom of this post).
The Route So Far
So far on this expedition we’ve followed at least eight state designated greenways or trails on land or water (paddling trails are also known as “blueways”), including the General James A. Van Fleet State Trail, Withlacoochee River (South), Withlacoochee State Trail, Big Bend Saltwater Paddling Trail, Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, Steinhatchee River, and the wild and wonderful Ochlockonee River, which we’re currently exploring for three days via kayak. Each of these trails is an excellent option for getting out into Wild Florida, and they provide a range of experiences from tame (paved bike path) to full immersion (swamp tromps).
Our wettest experiences so far have come from three stretches of the Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST), a footpath that spans 1,400 miles.
In the first week of our trek we spent three wet days traversing the Green Swamp wilderness deep in the headwaters of central Florida rivers, yet only a short drive from major population centers like Orlando and Tampa (see our Green Swamp blog post).
Last week we traversed the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge via the FNST, and got soaked from sloshing through the flooded path leading us into the wilderness area, and drenched from above thanks to an all day rainstorm preceding a cold front.
This week we crossed the Bradwell Bay Wilderness Area in Apalachicola National Forest, wading through chilly water that was nearly waist high for more than four hours. There is no better way to appreciate a swamp than to wade out into it and gawk at the surrounding beauty.
Benefits of Blueways
Blueways and trails provide numerous benefits for Floridians and visitors. Trails add value to nearby homes and communities, and outdoor recreation generates over $38 billion in consumer spending in Florida and supports 330,000 jobs (Infographic: Economics of Florida Outdoor Recreation & Trails).
There’s also a health benefit: the American Heart Association estimates that every dollar spent on trails and walking paths could save approximately three dollars in medical expenses. There are many types of trails in Florida and beyond, including options near you. Find one and follow it!
|#Glades2Gulf Species List as of February 12, 2015|
|Wood Stork||Tricolored Heron||Tufted Titmouse|
|Florida Sandhill Crane||Little Blue Heron||Black-capped Chickadee|
|Red-shouldered Hawk||Bald Eagle||Great White Egret|
|Turkey Vulture||Eastern Phoebe||Pygmy Rattlesnake|
|Black Vulture||Mallard||Black Racer|
|White-tailed Deer||American Coot||Virginia Opossum|
|Wild Turkey||Barred Owl||Belted Kingfisher|
|White Ibis||Osprey||Pileated Woodpecker|
|Eastern Grey Squirrel||Killdeer||Brown Water Snake|
|Common Yellowthroat||Yellow-rumped Warbler||Double-Crested Cormorant|
|Palm Warbler||Squirrel Tree Frog||Anhinga|
|Gray Catbird||Barking Tree Frog||Wood Duck|
|Northern Mockingbird||Green Anole||Brown Anole|
|American Robin||Lubber Grasshopper||Yellow-bellied Slider|
|American Crow||River Otter||Eastern Towhee|
|Great Blue Heron||Nine-banded Armadillo||Fish Crow|
|Cattle Egret||Southeastern Pocket Gopher||White Pelican|
|Northern Cardinal||Coyote||Feral Pig|
|Eastern Bluebird||Carolina Wren||American Alligator|
|American Kestrel||Blue-gray Gnatcatcher||Reddish Egret|
|Mourning Dove||Hairy Woodpecker||Willet|
|Pied-billed Grebe||Bottlenose Dolphin||Laughing Gull|
|Hooded Merganser||Ring-billed Gull||Common Loon|
|Red Breasted Merganser||Great Horned Owl||Black Skimmer|
|Eastern Box Turtle||American Oystercatcher||Pine Warbler|
|Eastern Meadowlark||Red-bellied Woodpecker||Wilson’s Snipe|
|Redwing Blackbird||Yellow-rumped Warbler||Crayfish sp.|
|Common Grackle||Common Rock Dove||Merlin|
|Swamp Sparrow||Common Goldeneye||Common Gallinule|
|Common Water Snake||Common Garter Snake||Chipping Sparrow|
|Suwannee River Cooter||Ruby-crowned Kinglet||Blue-headed Vireo|
|Spring Peeper||Northern Cricket Frog||Northern Harrier|
|Common Nightjar||Green Heron||Cooper’s Hawk|