For the safety of our visitors during the construction of the Wekiva Parkway, the State Road 46 entrance to the Lower Wekiva River Preserve is closed, until the project is completed. To access the hiking trails, please use the trailhead at Katie’s Landing. Other trails for biking and hiking can be found at the Wekiwa Springs State Park – Markham Woods Trailhead.
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.
Historically the timber industry has always played a large park in this area of Florida. Unfortunately, most of the old growth cypress was logged out of the Wekiva River before the river was protected by the Florida Park Service. 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.
Hunting was also a popular activity before the State of Florida purchased the land that is now Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park. There were many cabins located in the area for hunters; today, the only cabin left from those days is found on the Preserve. The area was stocked with pigs in addition to the natural game of deer, turkey and bear. The non-native hogs which thrive in the low-lying swamps of the park proved to be very destructive to native wildlife, such as ground nesting birds.
Horseback riding is a popular activity today within the Preserve. 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.