The Orlando Wetlands is a unique area to visit. It is made up of multiple Eco-Systems, which make each visit new and interesting. The original area was purchased in 1986 by the City of Orlando to be used as the final processing of Orlando wastewater. Natural plants are used in deep marshes to perform the filtering. There are many websites that explain the actual process of how the wastewater is processed, so this posting will not delve into the topic. The total area is 1,650 acres with approximately 20 miles of scenic trails. Please, remember the Wetlands are closed during the winter months - check before going out there. The City entered into an agreement with the original landowners at the time of the purchase of the land. This agreement gave the family exclusive rights to use the property on those dates until the year 2038. This closer covers all trails, including the Florida Trail that passes through the park. During that time frame the Florida Trail is detoured down Wheeler Road, where it connects back to the main trail. I will just cover the hiking/walking aspect of the Wetlands. I have hiked the area many times, covering around 60 miles (according to my GPS records). The trails are made up of roads around the filtering ponds, as well as blazed trails through the wooded section. As you walk around the ponds you will see a variety of wildlife - the variety changes for each season of the year.
Parking and Main Entrance Area
The Wetlands provides plenty of parking. They have also setup a very informative section complete with pictures, right near the parking area. So whether you are a wildlife, or plant life enthusiast, the information is available to fill you with expectations of what you will encounter while out and about the area. You will also find a clean restroom area and a large covered picnic area. There are different events held in the field near the parking area during the year. As I noted above, the area is closed during a section of the winter. If the gate to the parking area is closed, don’t try and get in.
Map showing some of my hikes around the area (yellow lines - multiple hikes)
Filter Ponds and Berms Area
This area of the wetlands is located mainly to the left of the parking area. You can enter it from any of the roads you will see as you leave the parking area. It is here that you will see most of the wildlife. I have seen a lot of alligators, a large variety of wading birds and songbirds. The amount of birds and animals you will see depends on the time of the year of your visit. You can walk all around the berms, it seems for miles and miles. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the berms, so that is not a problem. I have run across horse riders, but that is it. You will also be exposed to a large variety of wildflowers that grow around the filtering ponds. The berms run all around the filtering ponds, you can walk around all the filtering ponds without getting lost.
Woods and Blazed Trails
There are some nice blazed trails that start in the woods to the right of the parking area. I enjoyed the variety of woods, streams, wildlife and wildflowers found along these trails. The first trail you encounter will be the "South Woods Branch Trail". This trail starts just a short ways from the parking area and winds through the woods until you reach a berm and one of the filtering ponds. They estimate that it is a 15-minute hike - it takes me longer because I like to "stop and smell the flowers". There is a nice primitive campsite located along this trail, keep an eye open for the sign. Walk awhile down the road and around the tip of the filtering pond until you come to the "North Woods Branch Trail" on your right side. This trail ends up at the Florida Trail. They estimate that it is a 35-minute hike. You will encounter the Florida Trail (orange blazes) after crossing a small stream, which actually is the filtered water on its way to the St Johns River. Follow the trail to the east and than back to the west where you will hit a road taking you back to the parking area. You will know you are leaving the Wetlands area because you will hit a fence with a hiker’s crossover. Once you cross the fence you are into the Seminole Ranch WMA. If you elect to explore, you can take the roads in the area all over. As I mentioned a fair portion of the area is the Seminole Ranch WMA, but as you get closer to the river it is SJRWMD property. Both these areas are open to the public year round. The one thing you want to be aware of when you explore those areas is that hunting is permitted, so be watchful. I have hiked all the trails in the Wetlands Area, as well as most of the roads in the areas to the north and east of the Wetlands. I can tell you that it is a great place to visit and explore.
GPS Locations Note: can use in Google Earth "Fly to" box - just "copy & paste the coords to Google Earth to zoom to the spot
- Parking area - N28 34.180 W80 59.781
- South Woods Trail Start - N28 34.213 W80 59.740
- South Woods Trail End - N28 34.224 W80 59.385
- North Woods Trail Start - N28 34.451 W80 59.034
- North Woods Trail End/Florida Trail - N28 35.023 W80 59.173
- FT Fence Crossover - N28 35.015 W80 58.800 Orange
- Mound Campsite - N28 34.900 W80 59.028
- Seminole Campsite - N28 34.251 W80 59.550
A couple of hikes that can be viewed/downloaded -
WIKILOC Orlando Wetlands to Florida Trail Hike
WIKILOC Orlando Wetlands / Berms and Trails
Some Pictures of the area (click to enlarge) -
Picnic area at parking area -
Filtered Pond View -
Small Gators Near Filtering Pond -
South Woods Trailhead -
Seminole Primitive Campsite -
South Woods Trail View -
North Woods Trailhead -
North Woods Trail View -
Small Bridge Along Trail -
Bridge Over Filtered Water to Florida Trail -
Filtered Water on Way to St Johns River -
Florida Trail View -
Florida Trail Crossover to Seminole Ranch -
Small Dam near St Johns River on Seminole Ranch -
Neat web page! Thanks for all of your interest. Mark Sees (Wetlands Manager)
Thanks for the info! You are very helpful and you are appreciated. Cheers - MycoMedia, a fellow Geocacher.
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