Moccasin Island Tract/River Lakes Conservation Area Hiking

Moccasin Island Tract is a wonderful place hike and explore. It is very close to Melbourne and other surrounding cities. Over the last couple of years I have been to just about every section open to the public. It is amazing where you can go if you have a general idea of the area and a good handheld GPS. I always have my GPS handy so I know where I am and where my car is parked. First you must get to the parking area, just go West on Wickham Road until the pavement ends, them follow the dirt road (right side - N28 13.813 W080 45.356) West for another few miles until you come to the above sign, continue on a short distance to the parking area (N28 13.796 W80 48.679). Make sure you observe the gate closing time (it closes 7 pm sharp), if you are not out at closing time you will be left in there! After parking the car and getting ready you will now have to decide where you want to go - South to St Johns River, a beautiful Oak Hammock. You can also continue out to the Persimmon Campsite (may have historical value, but not sure of it) and then loop into the conservation area (no hunting in this area). You could go North to the Lake Winder observation area or detour to the namesake of the area, Moccasin Island. You can wind your way West along the canal next to the parking lot - use the North side to get to the Moccasin Island Area or use the South Side to take you into the conservation area. No matter where you go you will have two options, use the roads and trails or venture off into some pretty interesting areas to do some exploring. Always be aware when exploring that at different times of the year, different areas take on different personalities. If it is wet season, there is water and muck in many, many areas. If it is dry season, you will have much more access, but the grass can be so dense that you just can not get into it. The most access I've had is when it is very dry and there has been a recent burn in the area. During one of those perfect conditions I was able to walk through the conservation area, out to Persimmon Mound, then down along the St Johns River up to Lake Winder and then back to the parking lot along the canal which runs next to the parking area, That trip was over 11 miles, but it was very, very pretty. Always be aware that alligators can be in any body of water (just because you don't see them doesn't mean they are not there) and snakes which can bite you (I have come across a couple of water moccasins during all my travels). Look at "My Hikes" in the "links" section to see some of my suggested hikes. Those are just the some of the hikes I have done.

If you would like some more information, send me an email with a question. As of 2/2011 I have hiked over 312 miles throughout the area, visiting it 34 times. You can see my average hike is around 9.17 miles. Some hikes with friends, others totally alone (cellphone coverage of the whole area makes me feel that much more comfortable). I have looked for and placed GEOCaches throughout the area, as well as looking for survey benchmarks. I have never encountered anything that I felt put me in danger, in all cases things avoided me! I prefer the south section below the parking area, actually the conservation area to the west of the barbwired cow pastures. The cow pastures on the west side of the road actually belong to the SJRWMD and are leased to the Duda cattle ranch. I met the SJRWMD land manager one day during my travels and asked him about crossing the pastures. He said as far as he was concerned I could do that, just respect the gates and cows. It is about .8 miles over to the conservation area which you can explore to your hearts content!

Some of the Points of Interest - GPS coords are provided for finding in Google Earth (Fly To) or any other mapping software

  • Moccasin Island Itself - Very nice spot to look around - N28 14.763 W80 50.487
  • Lake Winder Observation Platform - Just a spot to stop and look out over the area - N28 15.169 W80 49.905
  • Airboat Picnic Area - Great place to stop and have lunch - N28 12.451 W80 49.937
  • Persimmon Campsite - SJRWMD campsite - maybe be occupied - N28 13.138 W80 51.092
  • Conservation Areas - A very big, hunter free area - here is the one location in it - N28 13.444 W80 50.451
  • Canal Crossover - Only safe way to cross the canal in the conservation area - N28 13.508 W80 50.362
  • Oak Hammock Trails - Blazed trails for hiking - N28 12.508 W80 49.754
  • Gators Galore - Very high concentration of gators - tough to get to, be careful - N28 13.865 W80 51.500
  • Bald Eagles Nest - View from road - eaglets have been seen on the nest - N28 13.166 W80 48.614
  • St Johns River - The river borders the area so access is anywhere you might be able to get to it
Most of the "tract" is out in the open, so I feel it is mainly a winter hiking area. When hiking out there, always prepare yourself for a "sun filled day"! The surrounding pastures are still part of an active cattle ranch, so cattle are always present. At times they break through the fence and make it into the "tract" land. In almost all cases, they are as scared of you as you might be of them. In all my encounters, I just moved in on them and they moved out of the way. I think there are some bulls out there, but not really sure. If you encounter one who doesn't seem to have any fear in its eyes, avoid it at all costs. One thing you must always be aware of, the St Johns River area has the most open hunting season of any area around. There is an open season on something just about all winter long. I have found that early winter is the most active time. I always suggest that you wear something bright while anywhere in the area. Hunters are not a problem, just be aware of them and you will be ok. It seems they are there very early in the day and later in the day. If when you get to the parking area and observe a lot of vehicles in it, they may be all hunters. This area is part of the River Lakes Conservation Area, controlled by the SJRWMD. I highly suggest that you also use the WIKILOC layer in Google Earth to see some of the hikes suggested there. Use the search box to find Google Earth suggestions if you want some help.

You can see many of the pictures I've taken at Moccasin Island Tract at - Moccasin Island/River Lakes Conservation Area Panoramio Pictures
I suggest that you review my hunting calendar (Hunting Schedule) to see if any hunting is scheduled in the area.

This picture will give you an idea where I have been and where you can go - click on it to see larger image -

I have seen a variety of wildlife while hiking around this area - deer, hogs, river otters, bobcat, coyote, armadillos, opossums, bald eagles, split tailed kites, caracaras, turkeys, snakes, gators, vultures, hawks, meadow larks, raccoons, white pelicans, sandhill cranes, all kinds of wading birds, all kinds of songbirds and what I believed to be the tail of a cougar. You can not consider them wildlife, but the cattle out there can be very impressive in their own rite.

Some pictures (click to enlarge)
Flowers along road back to parking area

My hiking supplies

Cattle/game trail through conservation area

One of the roads in the southern section

Area namesake - water moccasin

Bald eagles nest along road

Persimmon mound picnic table

Mud lake shelter in northern section (Lake Winder)

One of the frequent meadowlarks you will see

Oaks shelter down on St Johns River

3 comments:

Cache & Keri said...

This is an excellent resource for Florida outdoor locations, photos and detailed waypoint and photographic information. Thanks for the valuable tool and the fantastic site!

Water said...

This is an accurate site. I love level of description.

Mark Howell

Anonymous said...

Excellent presentation Tom...great information about this wonderful place that is only minutes away from the bustle of residential and commercial activity.