Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park – Feb 2009

Well, it’s been a year since we visited Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, and the Florida Pop Up Campers were headed that way for Washington’s Birthday. So we headed up the road for two hours and set up camp in Micanopy on Friday afternoon. On our last trip I went on a bike ride on Cone’s Dike Trail and found some buffalo. So this time, Lady and Little CurbCrusher wanted to go see the buffalo. We finished setting up, and rode the bikes up to the Visitor’s Center. No one had seen buffalo that day, but we decided that we’d head out on the trail. We rode about two and a half miles onto the dike trail. No buffalo. That’s that problem with looking for roaming wildlife, they are never where you expect them to be. We did see two huge gators and lots of evidence of the wild horses and the buffalo the in the form of buffalo patties.

It was a busy weekend for the CurbCrusher gang. Saturday morning we left the prairie and headed up to Gainesville. First stop, the Florida Museum of Natural History. Great place and its free to, or at least the museum is. There is a Butterfly Rain Forest exhibit that has an entry fee. Most of the exhibits are in the free section, with permanent exhibits about Florida geology and history. There was a traveling exhibit on the invasive species that are found in the Everglades, which was pretty cool since we learned about a lot of those species last year when we went to Flamingo. Little CurbCrusher was interested in the butterfly area, so we took a couple of turns through the exhibit. The first was right after we arrived when it was a little on the cold side, and there weren’t many butterflies flying around. We went back in later after the sun had come out and there was a lot of activity. Pictures of the Butterfly Rain Forest are here.

Next headed out to visit three other Florida State Parks in the area. The first was San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park located just north of Gainesville. No rangers at this park, but a bunch of bike trails and horse trails. We wandered down one of the trails a way, but didn’t do much else at the park. Some pictures from the park are here.

The second park we visited was Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park which is on the north side of Gainesville. This park is basically a sinkhole. There is a trail around the top of the hole, then stairs that you can take to walk to the bottom of the sink hole. Small streams form little waterfalls and trickle down to the bottom of the hole, and then disappears into the ground at the bottom. The walk is not too bad, and it was a pleasant climb down to the bottom and back up. I imagine that a visit after some rain would be very interesting as the trickles of water that we saw feeding to the bottom would be more like a stream. Our pictures are here.

Finally, we wandered over to the Dudley Farm Historic State Park, located a couple of miles west of Gainesville. This farm was founded in by the Dudley family in the mid 1800’s. It operated as a farm until the 1950’s. There were no rangers or any staff wandering around the park when we were there, but we were fine with the self guided tour. Our pictures of the park are here.

Finally Paynes Prairie. Not much new here that has changed from our trip last year. But here’s the summary and this year’s impressions:

Campsites – I’d probably give them a B. If you get a good site, it’s an A, but if you get a bad site, it would be bad. There are some sites that when it rains don’t drain well (1 and 2 I think). You’ll see the rig sitting the site like an island in the middle of the lake. Most of the sites are large enough, but some appear to provide a leveling challenge. There is water and electricity at each site, and a dump station located on the exit of the camping loop.

Stuff to Do – If you just want to stay in the park, there are plenty of trails to walk and bike. We’ve seen some decent wild life in this park on our visits. If you want to wander, there is the town of Micanopy nearby, the other parks and the museum mentioned above, and you’re very close to Gainesville, so if you are inclined to do University of Florida related stuff, it is close by.

Overall – We like to visit this park. This is the third trip that we’ve made to Paynes Prairie and we will probably make another one in about 12 to 18 months. Pictures of our time in the park are here.

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