Paynes Prairie State Park
Looking for a truly unique destination to go RV camping? How about a spectacular place where wild horses and buffalo roam? No, not Yellowstone or the western states; this is the Big Sky country and prairie land of The South, also known as the Alachua Savannah. Look no farther than the great state of Florida’s Paynes Prairie State Park in Micanopy, FL, near Gainesville.
Why You Should Go
A site of biological, geographical, and historical significance, nature lovers have been flocking to Paynes Prairie since 1971 when it was established as Florida’s first state preserve. This 22,000 acre reserve is also recognized as a National Natural Landmark. This ecological treasure features 20-plus distinct biological ecosystems. Breathtaking scenery surrounds you as does a multitude of rich habitats in this diverse parkland providing ample opportunities for wildlife viewing.
Once upon a time, yes, American bison were indigenous to the area. In 1975, the Florida state park system restored bison to this part of their historic rang—a real re-introductory success story. Your best chance of seeing these gentle giants is along Cone’s Dike Trail. As with all wildlife, do maintain a safe and respectful distance.
Grazing livestock reside in the park in acknowledgement of the land’s history of cattle ranching. The presence of the Florida Cracker Horses (a gaited breed of Spanish heritage) is due to these horses being used to herd the area’s Florida Cracker Cattle (also of Spanish heritage) before being replaced by the American Quarter Horse. Learn all about the park’s fascinating history by attending a ranger-lead Campfire Circle.
Great recreational activities abound so you’ll never be at a loss for things to do. Exuding its own kind of magic, Paynes is the ideal place for making great family memories.
Into the Wild
When you’re ready to hit the trails, there are eight unique and biodiverse trails to choose from. Pets are prohibited on some trails due to potential encounters with wild horses (and equestrian riders), snakes, alligators, and bison. Hikers, DO keep an eye out and stay on the trail.
Hikers will be rewarded with jaw-dropping scenery from many trail bluffs. The park has many observation decks including a 50-foot observation tower on the Wacahoota Trail; it offers a panoramic view encompassing a varied landscape that sweeps from marshland to wet prairieland to Lake Alachua. There’s also the thrill of possible wildlife sightings including bobcat, Virginia white-tailed deer, gray fox, otter, sandhill crane, wild turkey, raccoon, barred owl, butterflies, and more.
Paynes is considered a gateway to The Great Florida Birding Trail. Birdwatchers will be awed by in the abundance of over 270 documented bird species including raptors like the bald eagle and barred owl and the rich array of water fowl that inhabit the park and beyond.
Choose your watercraft, be it kayak, canoe, rowboat, sailboat, or electric motor boat. Rentals are available for many water activities including stand-up paddle board and wake board, or have a fun water skiing. Disc golf and sports fields are in the park so you can get your game on. There’s also a climbing wall and ropes course. Cycling is permitted on some trails and mountain bikes are highly recommended for the terrain. Paynes’ beautiful landscape is well suited for geo-caching that’s like treasure hunting in the wild.
Throw a fishing line in the pristine waters of Lake Wauburg from a boat or the banks. The most commonly caught fish in this 300-acre lake include bass, perch, and bream.
Weddings in the Wild
Combining your wedding with an RV camping adventure? When you’re ready to say, ‘I do’, their are beautiful wedding locations and amenities in Paynes to accommodate you and your guests for the ceremony and reception.
RV Camping Sites
RV campers will enjoy the pleasantly shaded campground near Lake Wauburg. You’ll back in your RV to your private campsite. Amenities include 30 to 50 amp service, nearby water and electric, grilling around a fire ring, rustic dining at your own picnic table and extra lighting if needed from your lantern post. Handicap accessible restrooms and hot shower facilities are nearby. At night, you’ll bask under Big Sky stars as plentiful as a spangled banner.
Being in close proximity to the University of Florida, the park, especially Lake Wauburg, is popular with students. For a more tranquil experience, weekdays are best to commune and “be one” with nature.
Reserve your RV campsite today and get ready to immerse in a unique nature adventure at Paynes Prairie.