Buck Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA) - Hiking

The Buck Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is huge, reported to be 9,291 acres. The area is also referred to as “Buck Lake Conservation Area”. It is located above RT46 in Mims, Florida. It runs from I95 on the east to Morgan Alderman Road on the west. There are three entrances to the property; the main two are referred to as the East and West Trailheads. There is another entrance located off Morgan Alderman Road, that one is used mainly by hunters. I have entered from both the East and West Trailheads, each have their own attractions. Ample parking is provided at both trailheads. There is quite a bit of hunting done in the area during hunting season, it is not recommended that you enter the area during the hunting season! During my visits I did see some wildlife; deer, osprey, river otter, turkeys, songbirds and some other critters. The whole area is crisscrossed with old dirt roads, which could be better to bike than hike! There are a couple of short blazed trails in the area, one leads to the Buck Lake observation tower and the other is just a short loop through the scrub. There is a long blazed white w/red trail which is actually just old dirt roads. I have documented two of my hikes on Wikiloc (see below), to help you better prepare for a day of hiking Buck Lake There are two primitive campsites located within the area, controlled by the SJRWMD, contact them for more information. I found one very nice area and a couple of just open areas. I have read that camping isn’t allowed during hunting season. . It has been reported that there are four cultural sites located within the boundaries of the WMA. I have no idea what they are or where they are, but if you find them, good for you! I did come across a few spots on the trail/road with water or rather wet areas. The wet areas were dry in February, but it looks like it could be a problem during the wet season.

There is one short loop located near the East Trailhead which takes you through the scrub area of the WMA. It is blazed with yellow markers. I am assuming that is where you might encounter some monitored scrub jays. I have not done this loop, but I understand it is a nice trail. Like much of the rest of Buck Lake, it is pretty open with a few random areas to provide shade.

Most of all the trails blazed throughout the WMA are mainly just dirt roads. Even though you find yourself walking roads, if you look around you will see some interesting items. I enjoyed the view of Freshwater Lake (that is its name believe it or not). The pine trees are impressive to view in their own right. Several oak trees are draped with Spanish moss giving them a majestic appearance. I pretty much had the whole place to myself the day I visited in February 2013.

East Trailhead
In order to get to this trailhead you must follow a dirt road off RT46. Watch for the small sign which marks the entrance. Drive up as far as you can go, and you will hit a gate and a parking area. You will notice some structures relating to hunting. If you see hunting activity going on, I would consider going to one of the other areas located around RT46 (down Hatbill Road there are a few areas). As you head out from the gate you will notice a blazed yellow trail on the left. This short loop will take you through a scrub area of the WMA. I didn’t do it, so I cannot comment about it. There are other websites which will provide information about that trail. I took the main road/trail north (blazed white), passing an osprey on its nest way above on its own pole. This section of the trail takes you up under some huge powerlines. At a fork I went right and hiked further north and then west. Here you will come across a very nice primitive campsite named “Old Timers Campsite”. It has picnic tables and all. Some deer did visit me while I rested at the campsite. There is another trail nearby listed on the Topo map as “Buck Lake Conservation Area Trails”. I headed further west along the road and then cut south, exploring some more roads and then looping back to the parking area. I came across Freshwater Lake, proving some nice lake views from different spots. I felt it strange that I didn’t see any gators or wading birds, but it might have been because of the time of the day. On my way back to the parking area, I did stop a few times to take in a few things along the trail. All in all, it was 11.4 miles of hiking that day.

West Trailhead
This entrance is located off RT46, just a small parking area right off the road. From this entrance you can access Buck Lake itself. Just follow the dirt road until you see a blaze and sign which will point you to the observation tower overlooking Buck Lake. Once at the observation tower you will have a view of the lower section of Buck Lake. You should be able to see some wildlife if you are there early or late in the day. The trail is somewhat shaded in sections. The dirt road out of the parking area does lead through the heart of the WMA, connecting to the East Trailhead if you so desire. It is a long haul; a bike might make it easier. If you just want a short hike, consider just going up to the observation tower and back for a round trip of 2.9 miles.

Conclusion
Buck Lake WMA is huge, and very open. Being that most of the blazed trails are dirt roads, you might want to consider using a bike to see everything in one day. Being a WMA area, look at my hunting schedule or the FWC hunting brochure to learn when it is safe for hiking and exploring or whether you need to stay away. If you like to explore, there are plenty of places you can venture into off of the trails. Like always, make sure your GPS has good batteries. I know there is a lot of wildlife out there, just finding it can be a challenge. I enjoyed my visits to the area, but I doubt that I would do too many hikes there. The problem with most sections of Buck Lake WMA is that it is they are out in the open. Make sure you wear a good hat, take plenty of liquids and put on plenty of sun screen.

GPS Locations
Note: can use in Google Earth "Fly to" box - just "copy & paste" the coords to Google Earth to zoom to the spot
• East Trailhead/Parking - N28 40.264 W80 53.425
• West Trailhead/Parking – N28 40.327 W080 58.302
• Morgan Alderman Road Entrance – N28 42.931 W081 01.185
• Buck Lake Observation Tower - N28 40.648 W080 57.691
• Yellow Trail Start - N28 40.392 W80 53.431
• Old Timers Campsite - N28 41.716 W80 54.077
• Freshwater Campsite (Just Open Area) - N28 41.348 W80 55.451
• Owens Crossing Campsite (Abandoned) - N28 41.406 W80 55.586
• Freshwater Lake View - N28 41.365 W80 55.452
• Osprey Nest on Pole - N28 41.142 W80 53.859

My hikes can be viewed/downloaded at Wikiloc –
• East Trailhead - Click Here
• West Trailhead - Observation Tower - Click Here

Here are some external Links you might be interested in –
• You can see other pictures of the area at - Buck Lake Area - use the “Launch Slideshow” function to loop through them

Some Pictures (click to enlarge) -

Hunting Checkin/Information at East Trailhead -

Powerline Road -

Pine Trees Alone White Trail -

Spanish Moss On Large Oak Tree -

Old Timers Campsite -

Clouds Over Freshwater Lake -

Water Running Across Road -

Clouds Over Sandy Section of Road/Trail -

Water On Road/Trail -

Buck Lake Observation Tower -

View Of Buck Lake From Tower -

1 comment:

Larry Geiger said...

Scouts built the tables and benches at Old Timers. The water management district put in the fire circle and pitcher pump. Very nice place to hike into and camp, especially February through April.