I want to let you know of a well-kept secret. It’s called Deep Creek Preserve. There are 2,000 acres of land with primitive camping, picnic tables, grilles, and fire rings, and nine miles of trails to wander through. You can enter it either by what I call the front entrance, which is nearer to Kings Highway, or you can enter it at the end of the SW Peace River St. across from the Nav-A-Gator Grill. If you enter by the Nav-A-Gator, you will find two things right off the bat. The first is paved parking. The second it that one side of the preserve is framed by Deep Creek itself.
I prefer to use the “front entrance”. The parking area is smaller, but there is little competition for parking spots and there is a lot more shade. There’s also fewer people this way. Most visitors seem to use the “back” entrance since it’s nearer to the restaurant.
My focus when I come here is not on eating, but on the trails before me. They aren’t technical, but there is a lot of history here.
Did you know this area was part of the 90 mile prairie and that King’s Highway was originally a cattle drive trail? It’s also part of the stomping grounds of the famous and infamous cow hunter, Morgan “Bone” Mizell. A character that deserves his own blog post.
Besides the rich history, there is so much nature to see and that alone is worth the price of gas. The trail is open to people and horses, but not to dogs and bikes. When you look at the pictures, you’ll understand why.
So follow along with me as we head out on some of the trails. I promise your feet won’t be sore afterwards.
This is the first thing you’ll see when you pull into the “front” parking area. There is a sign showing the rules, A map showing the various trails and a “pulpit” containing a spiral notebook for signing in.
The sign clearly shows that there is hiking trails, equestrian trails, and fishing for the main attractions.
You start out on a nice two-track trail even before getting to the picnic area. It’s a nice way to set the mood.
The picnic areas have the usual amenities of benches and grills just waiting to be used by you.
There is non potable water available for rinsing off, but you should bring your own water for drinking.
The trail starts off nice and easy with a blanket of grass.
The lone palmetto and the scrub oaks send you back to an earlier time.
As you move ahead, the grass starts giving away to gravel and the oaks become thicker while wax myrtle fills in the blank spaces.
I’m not a horse expert, but I would be concerned at all the loose gravel at this spot. Some of it could get lodged in the horse’s shoe. Luckily the ares of loose gravel is small.
And then, in a blink of an eye, the oaks give way to fields of palmetto and pine trees off in the distance.
Florida Wildlife Commision does perscribed burns annually. This provides the soil with nitrogen and destroys invasive exotic plants while not damaging the palmettos.
As you continue, the grass of the trail thins out to reveal the native soil of Florida.
A sandy loam mix. If you look closely, you’ll see horse hoofprints in the sand.
Along the way, I found this lone woodpecker looking for lunch. If you’re interested in finding more wildlife than I did, I highly recommend you heading out near dawn or dusk and to not make as much noise as I did with my heavy foot falls and rattling gear in my hiking pack. The bird didn’t seem to notice the sound of my camera turning on though, Hmm.
I inadvertently took a side trail and found this nice set of cotton tail bunny tracks. Can you see them?
The sand was loose and deep here.
It would hold my walking stick no problem.
How deep was it? Well my walking stick went down roughly six inches when I gently pushed down. It made for a hard walk here. Glad I had my water with me. (This is also why bikes are not allowed.)
I finally did find the correct trail through the stream.
It doesn’t look like much in the dry season, but when the summer rains hit, it grows rapidly. You should also be very careful when going near the stream no matter what the season is. Florida in known for cotton mouths or water moccasins, venomous snakes that are aggressive and will stand their ground. But don’t worry too much. There is another way across.
Continue along the trail and you will find a bridge to cross.
A well constructed bridge at that.
This sign does confuse me though. There are markers before and after the bride showing to take your horse over the bridge yet the sign says wheeled vehicles only. I chose to ignore it and walked over the bridge.
This led to an area that hadn’t been touched by a prescribed burn. The size of the overgrowth was evident.
Moving further away from the creek, the landscape changed yet again to prairie.
The terrain of the trail changed again as well.
The trail rewards us with this unique mini-stable. I’m not sure when it was built but I can say it had to be anywhere from the 70’s on up. It provides a nice shady spot to get out off the sun and heat, allowing you a nice moment of rest.
Rested, I took the trail back, stopping one more time to take one last picture.
I hope you enjoyed the hike with me, and just in case you are wondering why dogs aren’t allowed on the trail, here’s the answer.
If you live near the area and would like to volunteer, you can call at 1-800-423-1476 ext. 4470 or visit their website at: http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/areas/deepcreek.html
And if you want to hike the trails yourself, here’s a picture of the map for you.