Above: New observation tower at the preserve.
Below: The view from the tower.
Outdoor enthusiasts have a new preserve to visit in Levy County. The Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve is 413 acres of publicly owned land managed by Yankeetown.
Preserve visitors can enjoy a boardwalk, hiking trails and an education building. There is also an area to launch kayaks located on a half-mile portage trail. Boaters should be knowledgeable of tidal waters.
In February, representatives of the District, Friends of the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve, Yankeetown officials and Yankeetown middle school students attended a grand opening celebration. During the event, the education building was dedicated in honor of Ellie Schiller, former director of the Felburn Foundation. The celebration also featured music, kayak rides, environmental displays and the opportunity to explore the preserve.
“Nearly $900,000 in funding from the Florida Community Trust in 2002 was used in part to buy the preserve,” said Doug Sanders, District planner for the Withlacoochee River Basin Board. “The town has since used an additional $600,000 in grant funding from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for on-site improvements,” he added.
The preserve is also the site of a unique educational experience known as the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve Legacy Project, a cooperative educational venture with the District.
The project has been funded since 2002 by the District’s Withlacoochee River Basin Board. About $4,500 is allocated to this project each year.
As part of the Legacy Project, about 100 students visit the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve annually.
Through this project, students and teachers have been able to increase their knowledge about watersheds and the water resources within them by participating in a series of land management activities at the preserve. Examples of student activities include studying plant biodiversity, testing water quality, designing hiking trails, installing interpretive displays for kiosks and using the nine Florida-friendly landscaping principles to create a garden near the newly renovated education building.
The preserve, open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., is located in Yankeetown at 1001 Old Rock Road, also known as SR 40. The preserve is about 6.5 miles west of the traffic light at SR 40 and US 19/US 98.