Oakland Nature Preserve offers space to learn, view wildlife – Orlando Sentinel
Amidst the trials of daily life, sometimes it helps to have a place to stop for a moment, spend time admiring the smells of Floridian vegetation, the chirping of birds, and the sights that nature has to offer. .
The Oakland Nature Preserve near Winter Garden is full of opportunities to relax while viewing woodpeckers, blue jays, the occasional gopher tortoise, and Florida flora. The non-profit reserve along the south shore of Lake Apopka contains short trails, boardwalks, and plenty of opportunities for environmental education.
As visitors pass through the forested wetlands, dune uplands and ecosystems bordering the wetlands that make up the reserve, interpretive panels inform passersby about citrus trees, black vultures, bobcats and more. The park would be ideal for a home school excursion or an educational outing with the children. It’s hard to leave the site without learning something new.
A network of color-coded trails, varying in length from 0.2 to 0.7 miles, takes visitors around the reserve. Along the Green Trail, hikers can find a dedicated birdwatching area and an outdoor classroom. The white trail leads to a sinkhole, while the orange trail offers outdoor exercise stations. Throughout the reserve, walking is the only way to get around; bicycles, roller skates and skateboards are not permitted.
Near the trailhead, an education center and museum are open daily, typically 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekends, but times may vary. Inside, visitors can explore small exhibits of regional wildlife and plants.
The Oakland Nature Preserve was established in 1997 by Friends of Lake Apopka to protect part of the lake’s shoreline and provide a window into the land restoration process. The upland environment was once used for citrus groves and is now reverting to a natural environment with dunes, pines and turkey oaks.
Since the land is focused on preservation, a sign reminds visitors to exercise caution when exploring: “Take only photos and memories, leave only footprints.”
- Location: 747 Machete Trail in Oakland
- Hours: From sunrise to sunset every day
- Approvals: Covered pavilions, boardwalk, benches, walking path, paved path, education center, interpretation panels, amphitheater, parking lot, restrooms, garbage cans, wheelchair accessibility
- Activities: Bird watching, outdoor education, hiking, picnicking, wildlife watching
- What to bring: Pack a camera to capture the flora and fauna – especially the birds – in the reserve. Insect repellent can be a useful addition on hot, humid days. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.
- What not to bring: Bicycles, roller skates and skateboards are prohibited on ONP trails. Drones are not allowed. Smoking, fishing, hunting, wildlife tampering and off-road travel are prohibited.
- Pets: Pets are not allowed at Oakland Nature Preserve. Service animals are allowed.
- Pro tips: Don’t be distracted by the devices as there is plenty to see and admire throughout the reserve, especially when strolling the boardwalk. Observe the trees and try to identify bird species, which should be made easier with interpretive signs along the way. The avian residents of the reserve provide an excellent natural soundtrack.
- More information: 407-905-0054 or oaklandnaturepreserve.org