Located at the end of the wooded park drive in Micanopy, making your way to the Visitor Center may be considered part of the adventure as you pass through a range of landscapes along the way. The fragrant sandhills and shaded forests on either side of the drive beckon you to begin your exploration. A glimpse of one of the park’s native wildlife species is not uncommon, so use caution and drive slowly as a stealthy rat snake or slow-moving turtle may make their way across the road.
At the main parking area, start a relaxing stroll under magnolias, live oaks and towering pines as you follow the signs to the visitor center. You’ll be surprised how wild it begins to feel just a few steps away from the pavement and vehicles – calls from nesting bald eagles are often heard. Enter the front doors and experience your first expansive views of Paynes Prairie through the large floor-to-ceiling windows, and walk out to the back porch for a chance to see the park’s wild horses.
Explore the brand new interactive exhibits about park wildlife, plants and history, and learn more about the prairie’s story by viewing the film A Level Green Plain in the theater room. Talk with the friendly volunteer host about recreational opportunities in the park and what trails may be of most interest to you. Before you leave, be sure to climb the 50-foot observation tower located a little further down the paved Wacahoota Trail, to experience the panoramic views of the prairie from the south rim.
An essential first stop on your excursion through Payne’s Prairie starts here. We hope to see you soon!