The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is currently closed due to flooding from Hurricane Irma which has made the roads unsafe. The St. Johns River Water Management District staff continue working to restore water quality in the lake and provide us wildlife watching opportunities. Watch for status reports every Friday. The Drive, which opened in May 2015, previously was open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and most federal holidays (will be posted here).It couldn't be easier to arrange your visit to Lake Apopka Wildlife Trail and many more Apopka attractions: make an itinerary online using Inspirock's Apopka tour itinerary planning app .
In emergencies where Law enforcement is needed, call the Fish and Wildlife Commission at 888-404-FWCC (3922). For all other matters call the District's Bureau of Land Resources (formerly land management) at 386-329-4404 Monday through Friday. If the gate does not operate, call the number posted there.
The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is an 11 mile one-way drive that is managed by the St. Johns Water Management District. The drive has a 10mph speed limit and is free of charge. It allows a tremendously unique opportunity to get extremely close to Florida Wildlife in their natural habitat from the comfort of your own car. Over 360 bird species have been documented over the years to have visited this site. This world-class birding location is home to many year-round species while the immense marshes attract multitudes of migrating birds on the Atlantic Flyway on their way to South America or for their return trip to the northeast or Canada. In addition, the area supports habitat for many alligators, bobcats, fox, snakes, frogs, butterflies and many other animal species.
These lands were actually former lake-bottom and shallow marshes of Lake Apopka. In the 1940's the army corp of engineers created a dike system to section off these lands allowing them to be drained. While most of Florida is sandy and not good for farming, the rich & fertile lake bottom (muck) soils were used for commercial farming to feed our ever expanding nation.
While the farms were very productive the farm discharge from the fields was pumped back in to the Lake. Fertilizers in that discharge created a massive algae bloom that killed about all of the aquatic vegetation and sport bass fish that once made Lake Apopka one of the premier bass fishing locations in the nation.
In the early 1990's a concerned group of locals formed the Friends of Lake Apopka (FOLA). This group began a campaign to restore this once healthy ecosystem to it's former beauty. FOLA's efforts were successful and culminated in then Florida Governor Lawton Chiles signing the Lake Apopka Restoration Act in 1996 authorizing the buyout and closing of all commercial farming practices on this land.
The St. Johns Water Management District has been charged with overseeing efforts to restore this gem of Central Florida. Although much work still needs to be done, several large restoration projects have been successful in beginning to improve the lake's water quality. The former farm lands surrounding the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive continue to be restored today.
Sometimes birds just need a lucky break. The 20,000 acre North Shore provides habitat for wetland birds all year. Other species that breed farther north are here in winter, other species breed here but go farther south in the winter, and many species pass through in fall and spring migration. The variety is astounding and allows one to feel you can always discover new birds.
The wildlife viewing opportunities are unparalleled by any of the multitude of attractions in the Central Florida area......AND IT'S FREE!!! Only a 20 minute drive from many tourist areas, it is easily reachable from SR 429 or other area highways. Be sure to plan your trip there today!
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Lake Apopka Wildlife Trail Reviews
The trail operated by SJRWMD is a gem and appears to be a well-kept secret. The wildlife is incredible on this 11 mile, meandering road trip along the northern edge of Lake Apopka through the preserve... more »
We enjoyed this drive very much and we will do it again as we need to drive the alternate routed to the ones we chose this time. We saw quite a few alligators and birds, but no turtles. Turtles next t... more »
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