U140. Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area
SiteID: E140 (E103 old)
Nearest City: Kenansville
Phone Number: 352-732-1225
Features/Amenities: Entrance fee required, Tours, educational signage and/or nature center, Seasonal hunting, Birding by car, Birding by boat, Birding by foot/hiking, Birding by bicycle, Best time of day: Both morning and evening, Recommended length of visit: a few hours, Camping, Horseback riding, Butterfly viewing br>
Habitats: Freshwater Swamp, Freshwater Marsh/Wetlands, Dry Prairie/Grassland, Pines, River/Stream/Spring/Canal, Hardwoods/Mixed Forest
Named for Lakes Kissimmee, Jackson and Marian, Three Lakes WMA has long been a favorite destination for hunters as well as birders. This site supports 150 species of birds and protects a significant portion of the Kissimmee Prairie, one of the largest remaining dry prairies in the U.S. Other major habitats include longleaf pine flatwoods, cypress domes/strands, live oak hammocks and freshwater marshes. Start at the entrance to the Prairie Lakes Unit on Canoe Creek Rd., where you can pick up a map and recreation guide and pay the honor fee. A 10-mile, educational driving loop winds through the unit, which offers excellent birding. As you drive across sloughs and through flatwoods, oak hammocks and pockets of scrub, pay attention to the ecotones (areas where one habitat meets another), as these are highly productive birding spots. Feeding guilds (mixed species flocks feeding together) move through the oaks and pines in winter, and the wildlife drive leads right past a group of Red-cockaded Woodpecker nest trees before the exit. Osceola Wild Turkeys, Wood Storks and Limpkins are common on the WMA. Hikers may explore nearly 30 miles of scenic trails, including portions of the Florida National Scenic Trail. The westernmost portion of the Prairie Lakes Unit has Bachman’s, Henslow’s and Savannah Sparrows, plus Florida Grasshopper Sparrows. This is one of only two locations on the GFBWT where this endangered subspecies occurs (less than 1,000 remain). A separate entrance on SR 60 also has good Grasshopper Sparrow opportunities. Watch for Crested Caracaras and the occasional Short-tailed Hawk; a few White-tailed Kites have bred here as well. Small numbers of reintroduced, nonmigratory, Whooping Cranes are sometimes present. The viewing tower on the south end of Lake Jackson is a good spot to scan for cranes and Snail Kites. This WMA lies within one of the highest concentrations of nesting Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states; good places to look are the two observation decks on Lake Marian. One of these is accessed from the Sunset Ranch Trail, which also has a woodland viewing blind. Butterfly viewing is quite good here; search for American Snout from February to October and White M Hairstreak and Tawny Emperor from March to November. Apalachian Brown, Berry’s Skipper and Arogos Skipper are rare treats. Be aware that this WMA is a fairly wild location, so take water, a map and compass/GPS unit. Recreation, driving tour and trail guides plus WMA maps can be ordered from the FWC at the website below or by calling (850) 488-8755. Seasonal hunting occurs at this site; please click here for dates, regulations and more information.
Directions: From St. Cloud, go south on CR 523/Vermont Ave./Canoe Creek Rd. for 24 mi. to the Prairie Lakes/Lake Jackson entrance (A) on the right (west) side of the road. Use this entrance (Prairie Lakes Rd.) to access the wildlife drive, which exits 2 mi. further north on Canoe Creek Rd. The Sunset Ranch entrance is located 2.25 mi. further south of Prairie Lakes Rd., on the right (west) side of Canoe Creek Rd. The southernmost entrance (B) is located on the north side of SR 60, 14.5 mi. west of Yeehaw Junction.
Open all year, 24 hours/day.
Location: 27.927951, -81.122958