Babcock Webb Wildlife Management Area

This area was purchased in 1914 by a lumberman from Pittsburg named Edward Babcock. In 1931, he leased the timber rights on his land, and eventually nearly all of the old growth pines were cut down for timber. The Commission of Game and Fresh Water Fish (the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission before it was called that), started to buy land for conservation and wildlife management. In 1941, they bought 19,200 acres of land from Edward’s son, Fred. Babcock Webb WMA is the oldest wildlife management area in Florida. Today, there are over 65,000 acres that make up the Fred C. Babcock/Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area. It was originally named after a commissioner at that time, Cecil M. Webb. It’s name was changed in 1995 to the Fred C. Babcock/Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area. We just call it Babcock Webb.

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Common Wading Birds of SWFL

Wherever there’s water in Southwest Florida, you can probably count on there being some birds and an alligator or two. Here’s a quick little guide to the most common wading birds you’ll encounter in this area. Click on each photo for full-screen view.

Backpacking for Beginners

On the Myakkka Hiking Trail

Have you been wanting to try backpacking, but have been a little intimidated by the idea? Hopefully this post will help boost your confidence. If you can walk a few miles and carry 20% of your bodyweight, you can backpack.

We’ll start with water. I’m not a proponent of plastic water bottles. Having said that, for a lightweight and perfectly sized bottle, I haven’t found a reusable bottle that can beat a one liter Smart Water bottle. An empty bottle without the neck band and label weighs a mere 1.32 ounces. An added bonus is that it perfectly fits the Sawyer Squeeze filtration system. (More on that later.)

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Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

How do you pronounce “slough?” It rhymes with flew, not cough or chow. English is weird. Anyway, welcome to one of my favorite local spots! I will say, I prefer this place in the summer on weekdays because in the winter and on weekends it gets crazy busy. Today was a federal holiday, and I think everybody and their sister decided it was a good day for a walk at Six Mile Cypress.

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O’Leno State Park and River Rise

O’Leno was Florida’s eleventh state park, established in 1940. Like many of the original state parks, it was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. This park is full of history and natural beauty. Some of the best hiking trails in Florida can be found here, particularly when combined with neighboring River Rise Preserve State Park’s trails.

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Hontoon Island State Park

Hontoon Island is a sweet little 1,650 acre state park located on the St. John’s River, six miles west of Deland in Florida. We visited in mid-October and had the whole place practically to ourselves. We arrived on a late Sunday afternoon. There were several families enjoying the day use area, fishing and playing on the playground. By Monday morning, the place was pretty much deserted.

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Explore Your World

A walk in nature is the perfect antidote to feeling stressed, fatigued, and generally unhappy. Breathe in the fresh air, and take some time to find something cool and unusual. There’s always something interesting to see, you just have to look a little more closely sometimes. Scavenger hunts are a great way to train your brain to look deeper and seek out hidden nature treasures.

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Wood Storks

Wood storks are a threatened species of bird that can be found hanging out in wetlands in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.  They are occasionally seen in all states along the Mississippi River and as far north as Ontario.  Mostly they stay in the Southeast though.  

Gopher Tortoises

Turtle or tortoise? If you want to get technical, all tortoises are turtles, meaning they belong to the order Testudines. However, not all turtles are tortoises. Tortoises are land animals, and they can’t swim. Though there are land turtles that are not tortoises, like wood turtles and box turtles. Are you confused yet? An easy way to tell the difference is to look at their feet. Tortoise feet look a bit like elephant feet, which is interesting because they’re called “elephantine.” That just means they’re columnar and not webbed like turtles’ back feet are. Turtles’ front feet are like flippers. Tortoises’ are not.

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Sharing the Trails with Alligators

If you hike near water in Florida, chances are pretty good you’re going to see an alligator at some point. Those of us who are on the trails a lot are used to it, but it can be scary if you haven’t had much experience sharing the trails with these reptiles. Something that’s important to remember is that a healthy, wild alligator will most likely want nothing to do with you; so the best course of action is to just ignore them and let them go on their way. Alligator attacks in Florida are extremely rare. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission there have only been twenty-four fatal alligator attacks in Florida since 1973. Statistically, you’re more likely to be killed by a cow than you are an alligator.

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