Lower Wekiva River State Preserve is comprised of almost 18,000 acres of environmentally significant land, bordering six miles of the St. Johns River and the lower four miles of the Wekiva River and Black Water Creek. The state of Florida purchased almost 5,000 acres of the preserve in 1976 to protect portions of the Lower Wekiva River while allowing recreational use. Additional purchases in 1994 and 1995 have formed a wildlife corridor along the Wekiva and St. Johns rivers connecting to the Ocala National Forest.
Prescribed fire is an essential resource management tool used by land managers to meet specific objectives. Aerial ignition from a helicopter is one method of applying prescribed fire to Florida's ecosystems. The helicopter is equipped with a machine that drops 'ping pong' balls that ignite as they hit the ground. This technique allows managers to cover a lot of acreage in a short time. Florida has been shaped by fire for thousands of years and the use prescribed fire is beneficial to the ecosystems that depend on fire for survival. Low intensity prescribed fire also reduces the build-up of forest fuels that can drive violent wildfires.
An equestrian trail riding group that frequents the park held a benefit fundraiser for our Citizen Support Organization (CSO). They raised enough money during the weekend to purchase the materials to construct new horse corrals at the Fechtel Tract of Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park. In addition to raising the money for the corrals, a volunteer work weekend was established to build the new corrals. This strong and passionate volunteer base is the sole reason the park is able to offer these new structures that are used and enjoyed by all equestrian riders. Volunteers use their skills to provide invaluable services to the park and are greatly appreciated for their time and effort.
Hunting was a popular activity before the state of Florida purchased the land that is now Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park. The photo shows the only cabin left from those days. The area was stocked with pigs, which thrived in the low-lying swamps of the park. Unfortunately, pigs are a non-native species that can be very destructive to native wildlife, such as ground nesting birds. It is important that no one release any wildlife into state parks.
Unfortunately, most of the old growth cypress was logged out of the Wekiva River before the river was protected by the Florida Park Service. This photo shows how the loggers would float the timber down river to be taken to saw mills. The Wekiva River is also designated as a National Wild and Scenic River by the National Park Service. It is one of only two rivers in Florida to meet the requirements for this designation. This added protection helps ensure that the Wekiva River will be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.
This culvert, located on the Fechtel Tract of Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park, is made from a large, hollowed-out cypress tree. This would have helped stabilize the tram road from washouts during times of heavy rain. The elevated tram roads were constructed to carry the loggers to the seemingly unreachable areas of the swamp where the largest trees grew.