Know Before You Go
Effective Dec. 2: Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is open. Due to high water levels on the prairie basin, portions of the La Chua trail are inaccessible.
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is biologically, geologically and historically unique. This park became Florida's first state preserve in 1971 and is now designated as a National Natural Landmark. Noted artist and naturalist William Bartram called it the great Alachua Savannah when he wrote about his visit to the prairie in 1774.
More than 20 distinct biological communities provide a rich array of habitats for wildlife and livestock, including alligators, bison, horses and nearly 300 species of birds. Exhibits and an audio-visual program at the visitor center explain the area's natural and cultural history. A 50-foot-high observation tower near the visitor center provides a panoramic view of the preserve.
Eight trails provide opportunities for hiking, horseback riding and bicycling, including the 16-mile-long, paved Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail. There is a fishing pier on Lake Wauberg, and a boat ramp provides access for canoes and boats with electric motors. Gasoline powered boats are not allowed. Full-facility campsites are available for overnight visitors.