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Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge

Just east of the St. Johns River, with two large lakes and many streams and rivulets, Lake Woodruff is a haven for wintering waterfowl. The refuge supports such threatened or endangered species as Bald Eagles, Manatees, Indigo Snakes, American Alligators, and Wood Storks. Located outside the southeastern corner of Ocala National Forest, Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge contains about 19,500 acres, nearly 12,000 of which are in freshwater marshes, 5,400 in hardwood swamps, 1,000 in lakes, streams, and canals, and 445 in managed impoundments (man-made bodies of water). Only about 1,200 acres are in uplands such as pine flatwoods.

Though a canoe or motorized boat is required to get around much of this refuge, several miles of walking trails are available at the designated public-use area at the end of Mud Lake Road, just south of the refuge headquarters. Two short nature trails pass through hardwood hammocks, and the 6-mile, round-trip Jones Island Trail leads to Pontoon Landing on Garden Run. The latter trail is a particularly good place to look for White-tailed Deer and Bobcats.

Impoundments at the public-use area are lined with dike roads that make for excellent walking (especially in winter), and offer outstanding wildlife observation. Alligators are common year-round, as are herons, egrets, Glossy and White Ibises, and Sandhill Cranes. Snail Kites might be seen at any time of year, Bald Eagles nest in late winter and spring, and Swallow-tailed Kites are regular visitors in summer. Thirty warbler species have been recorded during spring and fall migrations.

Paddling enthusiasts can launch (and rent) canoes at nearby De Leon Springs State Park, take the spring run to Spring Garden Lake, and go on to Garden Run around the northwestern edge of Jones Island. It is also possible to paddle (or motor) the much greater distance to Lake Woodruff.

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  • fishing
  • hiking
  • paddling
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