The area is an ideal place where visitors, from school groups to master birders, can visit and explore some of central Florida’s flora and fauna found in a natural state that has had little modification by man. The area contains a variety of different habitat types with a wide diversity of plant life. These types include, but are not limited to, sandhills, flatwoods, oak hammocks, river swamp and cypress ponds. The characteristic cypress ponds that dot the landscape can only be found in central Florida. This intact ecosystem attracts many types of wildlife. The preserve is an excellent place for bird watching and observing other wildlife from mammals, amphibians, reptiles and butterfly species.
The preserve is divided into five management units: Colt Creek State Park — 5,067 acres; East Tract — 51,149 acres; Hampton Tract — 11,052 acres; Little Withlacoochee Tract — 4,446 acres; and West Tract — 37,350 acres. Nearly 36 miles of the Withlacoochee River’s 110-mile length are protected as an Outstanding Florida Water within the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve.
As a plateau above surrounding areas, the Green Swamp region is an important physiographic feature of Florida. Its 560,000 acres of wetlands, flatlands and low ridges are bounded by prominent sandy ridgelines. Rainwater drains across the surface to create the headwaters of four major rivers: the Withlacoochee, the Ocklawaha, the Hillsborough and the Peace. Rainwater also trickles down through the soil to replenish the Floridan aquifer system, the primary source of drinking water for most Floridians. Because the Green Swamp region is elevated above outlying areas and the underground aquifer rises very close to the land surface, the region functions as the pressure head for the aquifer. Protecting the Green Swamp is vital to protecting the quality and quantity of Florida’s water supply. Recognizing the statewide significance of this area, the state of Florida in 1974 designated 322,000 acres of the Green Swamp region as an Area of Critical State Concern.
Visitors can hike over the vast road network or hike the Florida National Scenic Trail, which bisects the area. Along the trail and road system in the area, observers will notice a land that has been preserved to keep its natural beauty. This is an illustration of central Florida’s natural heritage.
The District began purchasing the area in the early 1970s and is still carrying on acquisitions to protect the area’s natural uniqueness, which will benefit current and future residents of southwest Florida.