J57. Lake Apopka Restoration Area: Clay Island
SiteID: E57 (new)
Nearest City: Astatula
Phone Number: 386-329-4404
Features/Amenities: Good for beginners, Birding by foot/hiking, Birding by bicycle, Best time of day: Both morning and evening, Recommended length of visit: all day, Horseback riding br>
Habitats: Freshwater Marsh/Wetlands, Hardwoods/Mixed Forest
Headwaters of the Ocklawaha River, Lake Apopka has some of the finest birding in central Florida with more than 300 bird species documented. It also has the highest species total for an inland site in the 100-plus-year history of the Christmas Bird Count. Lake Apopka was once dubbed “the most polluted lake in Florida” and it continues to undergo major restoration efforts following decades of water quality degradation. Many of the former farm fields at this site have been restored as shallow marshes; these were created as part of a flow-way system to filter excess nutrients from the lake. The wetlands also provide great habitat for birds. The Clay Island area, with 5.8 miles of multi-use trails and three observation towers, offers lots of excitement with such species as Mottled Duck, Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, Glossy Ibis and Bald Eagle. Look for shorebirds and songbirds in migration and winter, plus overwintering waterfowl and flycatchers such as Western Kingbird and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. The North Shore area, also known at the Duda property, has 4.9 miles of multi-use trails. Check around the Barn Owl boxes near the parking area, then walk or bike the levee trails for Sora, Purple Gallinule, ducks, herons and Swamp Sparrow. Yellow Warbler and other migrants can be found in season. Both tracts have limited shade, and bicycles are especially useful. Other wildlife species seen here include American Alligator, Northern River Otter, Northern Raccoon and Bobcat. Sixty-five species of butterflies have been recorded at the North Shore area, including Polydamus Swallowtail, Twin-spot Skipper, Tawny Emperor, Sachem and Viceroy.
Directions: From the intersection of SR 429 (toll) and US 441 in Apopka, go north on US 441/Orange Blossom Tr. for 6 mi. to Zellwood. Turn left (west) on Jones Ave. and go 3.8 mi. (name changes to Duda Rd. for the last 0.6 mi.). Next, turn left (south) on CR 448A and go 0.5 mi. For the North Shore Tract, continue south on CR 448A for 1.4 mi. to the parking area at the end of the road. For the Clay Island Tract, turn right (west) on CR 48 (from CR 448A), and go 3.2 mi. to Astatula. Turn left (south) onto Ranch Rd. and go 2.7 mi., then turn right (west) on Peebles Dr. After 0.1 mi., turn left (south) on Carolyn Ln. The parking area is 0.2 mi. ahead at the end of the road.
Open all year, sunrise to sunset.
Location: 28.67462, -81.70796