Wildlife of Ichetucknee Springs

A barred owl is seen parched in a tree.

Many visitors at Ichetucknee Springs State Park are surprised by the sheer amount of wildlife and diversity that is to be found here. It is easy to believe that the park is a crown jewel of the Florida Park Service, not only because of its fantastic tubing and river access, but also because of the pristine habitats and classification as one of the 15 largest spring groups in the state.

On any given day, you might hear the hoot of an owl far overhead, smell the fresh scent of the plants after a rainstorm or enjoy the sight of turtles jockeying for position on the best log in the river.

One look into the crystal-clear waters reveals one of the many qualities of this park - that it is a highly protected springs ecosystem with a relatively untouched riverbed.

A walk along a trail takes you on a journey through 15 distinct natural communities - from flatwoods to hammock, sandhills to sinkholes, upland hardwoods, streams and caves. Keep an eye out for the different species of trees and shrubs found in the park, including tall longleaf pines, spiky saw palmetto, gallberry, live oak, turkey oak, pignut hickory, magnolia, sweetgum and colorful maples along the shaded Trestle Point Trail. Look for the more water-loving cypress, swamp tupelo, cabbage palm, ferns and sawgrass along the half-mile floodplain forest Blue Hole Trail.

Sandhill habitat maintained by prescribed fire can be seen on the Trestle Trail

You might be lucky enough to see some wildlife, including several imperiled species in the unique sandhill habitat found along the Pine Ridge Trail. A sudden movement will give away a gopher tortoise scratching in the ground.

The alarmingly large flash of gray and black that is the Sherman’s fox squirrel, the more secretive short-tailed and eastern indigo snakes, and the piercing cries of an American kestrel may all also be observed.

Other species of wildlife that are commonly seen include the Bachman’s sparrow, manatees, Suwannee cooters and the Suwannee alligator snapping turtle. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for the smallest park residents, such as the Ichetucknee siltsnail, Santa Fe cave crayfish and numerous species of butterflies.

With an endless number of places to explore and things to see, a visit to this park is truly a trip into the Real Florida.