I’ve been wanting to break way from my usual reporting on Florida resorts, restaurants, cities, travel, etc. and write about something else The Sunshine State has to offer; its natural beauty and wild life. I took advantage of my long weekend over the 4th of July and in between bbq’s, celebrating with family and fireworks, I ventured out to do a little nature exploring and hiking. I packed a small backpack with some snacks and bottled water, armed myself with my trusty Canon camera and off I went!
I had been curious to visit and explore Sawgrass Lake Park. This 333 acre natural oasis is hidden and tucked away behind residential homes in St. Petersburg and it is full of Florida wildlife. Sawgrass Lake Park is one of the largest maple swamps on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
The park has a boardwalk, nature hiking trail and a paved trail to bike and rollerblade on. There are also picnic tables and grills for you to use and enjoy a nice lunch or small picnic along with a observation tower overlooking Sawgrass Lake and providing beautiful views. As you enter the park, there is an education center that showcases the different animals that you will see along your exploration as well as the layout of the park.
Sawgrass Lake Park has a mile long boardwalk where you can walk and admire the nature around you. There are several rest areas that are covered and include benches if you need a break during your journey through the park. Trees also provide a natural canopy of shade in many different parts of the boardwalk. Almost 100 species of animals inhabit the park currently. Different creatures such as fish, turtles, snakes, lizards, otters, frogs and alligators are some of the residents you will see at the park.
The mile-long elevated boardwalk is divided into 2 trails. The Sawgrass, which takes you by the canal and leads to the lake and observation tower. The Maple, which winds around the interior of the park and swampland eventually bringing you to the half mile-long natural dirt trail called Oak Hammock. This trail takes you through a patch of woods and trees with butterflies abundant wherever you look. This part of the park really made me feel at one with my surroundings as my feet were on the ground and no handrails to protect me.
I left the park walking out on the paved bike trail next to a creek that was busy with birds looking for worms and small fish. There were Egrets on branches drying their wings in the shade of leaves. I crossed paths with an older gentleman who was writing and drawing in a small journal as he looked at the surroundings and I felt even more inspired at the simplicity of putting a pencil to paper instead of using a iPhone or camera.
We greeted each other and I asked if I could see his drawings. To my disbelief, he had drawn perfect pictures of an enormous Banana Spider and its web! I recognized his drawing immediately! I had spent a good 30 minutes trying to photograph it earlier, but it was so camouflaged. Only to be seen by the naked eye and sunlight. When I told him about my photo failure, he simply said…”Sometimes, all you need is your eyes to see things and remember.” I’m so ok with that..
So, this is my first nature post, but definitely not the last. I will be back here at Sawgrass during the winter and hopefully be able to highlight some of the other inhabitants like a bobcat, wild pig, fox and of course, more Gators!
Happy Travels ~ Ruthie
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