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Last Sunday we set out on another family adventure. This time we headed north to Gainesville, Florida! Before we moved to Florida all I really associated Florida with was Disney, beaches, and TONS of people. I never anticipated how much gorgeous nature there would be to explore. Florida is home to more State Parks, Nature Preserves, and Wilderness Parks than I can even count. I want to see them ALL!
In an attempt to see as much of Florida as we can we are trying to dedicate one day every weekend to adventures! We pick a destination and just go! This past weekend our goal was to hit Sweetwater Wetlands Park and I am so glad that we made the journey! Sweetwater Wetlands is a man-made wetland habitat that is home to some absolutely amazing nature. There is a 3.5 mile trail that you can hike through the wetlands…it is a combination of crushed gravel and elevated boardwalk. One of the biggest draws of this particular park are the wild horses. Sadly we didn’t see any when we visited but we did see prints in the gravel and other…ahem…”signs” that horses had been there… (it was poop). 🙂
When you arrive at the park there is a drop box to pay the $5 parking fee…totally worth it in my book. Upon entering the trail there is a place where you can grab a map of the park as well as some pamphlets that tell you the types of birds you can see…was really awesome because we saw a LOT of birds! There is also a board where people will write which wildlife has been seen that day…my eyes only bugged out a little when I read the words 7 FT ALLIGATOR and COTTONMOUTH SNAKE! Anyway…we headed out and I was immediately struck by how gorgeous this place is…
Everything was so green…and FLAT! We could hear so many birds and bugs singing…it was just awesome! We also heard something grunting…pretty sure it was an alligator!
There are two different loops you can take one you get on the trail. We opted for the shorter loop because it was seriously so HOT. The elevated boardwalk was awesome and so well maintained. We stopped at the viewing pavilion at the beginning to take it all in.
This park is a homeschoolers dream. There are signs everywhere explaining things and providing mini science lessons. A+, Sweetwater Wetlands Park! As we walked along the boardwalk we saw birds, snakes, and alligators. It was awesome! The boardwalk and gravel path are really well maintained…we saw people pushing baby strollers without any trouble so it is definitely a wonderful place for the whole family!
After completing the smaller loop we really wanted to do the bigger trail but the heat had gotten to be too much for Max. I should have put everyone in hats and filled a backpack with waters…I think that would have helped. So we decided that we would come back again when the weather isn’t 100 billion degrees. I would really love to visit early in the morning or around sunset…I think it would be stunning here.
If you find yourself in the Gainesville area I can’t recommend Sweetwater Wetlands Park enough. It was an absolutely amazing place to get out and explore Florida.
For more information on Sweetwater Wetlands Park head on over to their website at: http://www.sweetwaterwetlands.org
They offer ranger lead hikes as well that I think would be fantastic! I would love to take the kiddos on one of those!
The park is open 7am to sunset Monday-Sunday including holidays. There is a bathroom available at the start of the trail. We were also impressed to find a sunblock station at one of the first observation pavilions! Really awesome touch! 🙂