About ten miles below Gainesville in Micanopy, Florida, you can find signs directing you to take Exit 374 off I-75 for Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. It was one of those serendipitous turn-of-the-steering-wheel things when husband Bert asked if I wanted to go there. Why not? was my reply. And the respite was good for the soul.
With over 22,000 acres of prairies, marshes, lush greenery, Paynes Praire Preserve is home to 800 species of plants and 400 varieties of vertebrates (alligators among them, as we found out unexpectedly!) Once the largest Spanish cattle ranch in Florida, remnants of ranching stand as a reminder of what the preserve once was — even while hosting today’s activities: biking, camping, hiking, and (our favorite) wildlife viewing.
Quiet walks along the boardwalks leading visitors toward moss-draped trees and open waters can be the peaceful place you need. But reading the history of the area and seeing the beauty of Alachua Sink gave us pause. We read. We stopped. We marveled. This really was a favorite “stop along the way” of our longer journey.
Paynes Prairie became Florida’s first preserve in 1971 and is now designated a National Natural Landmark. For more information, click here.
But even better, go see it.
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
100 Savannah Blvd.
Micanopy, FL 32667