Description - Paynes Prairies is an extraordinary State Preserve frequently referred to as
"one of a kind." The park encompasses 21,000 acres in a shallow basin
located below Gainesville. Everyday the basin grows inch by inch from the
slowly dissolving limestone bedrock that is adversely affected by rain mixing
with decomposing vegetation. The water seeps through sink holes as large as
Alachua Sink creating an every changing place thousands of years old. With
nature constantly evolving, Alachua Sink was blocked during the late 1800s
thus creating a lake where it was once prairie. Entrepreneurs quickly reacted
establishing a cargo paddleboat route slicing the interior. This ended as
quickly as it began when the blockage naturally passed through Alachua Sink
and waters flowed once more thus leaving boats on high ground. The
majority of the expansive area is covered with wet prairie, marsh and areas of
placid waters. The uplands are even more diverse containing pine flatwoods,
swamps, ponds and canopied hammocks. As a result, wildlife thrives
attracting thousands of snakes, alligators, and wading birds. Also, several
notable animals including wild horses and bison have been reintroduced
successfully. Wading birds by the thousands flock to this important wintering
ground. Sandhill cranes are one of the most popular varieties with numbers
Artifacts from 10,000 years ago have been recovered
on this site. The last known Indian tribe to inhabit the prairie was the
Seminole Tribe. During the 1600s, this prairie was the site of the Spanish
colonists' largest cattle ranch.
- Paynes Prairie State Preserve has two developed areas with thousands of
additional acres of marshes and uplands. The best place to begin your visit is
at Lake Wauberg Recreation Area located off U.S. Highway 441. The entrance
has a large visitor center where the preserve's wildlife communities and
twenty different biological communities are presented through exhibits,
interpretive materials and audio-visuals. Adjacent to the visitor center is a
short loop trail leading to an observation tower giving guests a panoramic
view of the great expanse. Here is where visitors can view the re-introduced
bison herd. Also in this area is a picnic grove and several multi-use trails.
Before the visitor center, a park road bears left taking visitors to the shores of
Lake Wauberg where they will find a boat launch, large lakeside picnic area, a
boardwalk and children's playground.
Located to the north, off State
Route 331 and Camp Ranch Road is North Rim Interpretive Center, the
trailhead to Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail, many of the Preserve's shorter
multi-use trails, and Chacala Pond. Visitors should note that the interpretive
center has limited hours.
Between the two entrances, several parking lots
with accompanying observation towers and trailheads offer different
perspectives of the vast prairie.
Recreation - Visitors to Paynes Prairie State Preserve are never disappointed. Special events
occur year-round featuring historical crafts and wildlife walks. Full-service
camping offers 35 RV sites, 15 tent sites, all of which are handicapped
accessible. Biking, canoeing, boating, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and
picnicking fill the day at this fabulous natural area.
Climate - Florida experiences mild, comfortable winters and warm to hot, humid
summers. The area offers a great warm escape for outdoor recreation during
the cold northern months. Summer temperatures average in the low 80's
Fahrenheit and mid 20's Celsius. Winters are mild with temperatures averaging
between the high 40's to the high 50's Fahrenheit. The average precipitation for
the north central area is diverse. The central western area receives more than 60
inches per year while the central eastern tract receives about 50 inches. August
and September are peak months of the hurricane season that lasts from June 1
through November 30.
USA 441 and State Route 331