The Aquatic Preserves of Charlotte Harbour
In 1975 Florida decided to protect the coastal and inland waters for all future generations to enjoy and also to preserve a unique biological and scientific area. The Aquatic Preserves Act of 1975 came into being and this ensured submerged lands which were state owned were forever protected.
September onwards is a fantastic time of year to visit this stunning natural habitat of mangrove forests, wetlands, marshes, scrub habitats and pine flatwoods and is a birdwatcher’s dream. The intense heat of the summer months is beginning to lessen and the local wildlife and forna start to flourish during the cooler days. These cooler temperatures and the usually drier trails make the backcountry experiences far more pleasant for the visitor.
The Preserve is protected and is constantly being restored and with the assistance of volunteers who spend many hours in this beautiful environment in their own time helping to maintain the trails.
The preserve is approximately 42,000 acres in area and also protects 70 miles of shoreline of this unique and beautiful coastline. Most of the preserve is shallow water, offering the visitor the chance to see wading birds, manatees, dolphins and other wildlife. With six miles of marked trails and paddle ways there is an opportunity for everyone to experience Florida’s natural habitat.
The best way to see the preserve is by kayak or canoe using the two paddle trail systems which meander through the area. For those who prefer to keep two feet firmly on the ground there are walking trails in the upland areas in each section and so can be explored by traversing the three marked trails.
It is also possible to visit and explore other areas of the Preserve, (unless posted as closed), however for the in-experienced hiker/visitor these areas can be very remote and very much a primitive wilderness. It is essential if you venture off the known trails you carry a compass, a map, a torch and enough water for your planned stay.
Even on the marked trails is is essential to carry water as Florida's heat and bugs even during the cooler months can still be overwhelming for the unprepared. So do bring plenty of water and bug spray with you; there are no restrooms or drinking fountains available.
The best way to experience the Preserve is to simply relax and walk slowly, taking in the beauty; there is no need to rush, the silence, the solitude and the scents will fill you with a true feeling of well being.