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Great Outdoors - Where Nature & Culture Meet

Bathers enjoy the sun in north central florida Northern Florida's mild climate entices residents to enjoy the myriad of opportunities for outdoor activity that exist in Alachua County. Families regularly head for any of the 40 nature parks within 50 miles of Gainesville to picnic, swim, hike, camp or do some boating or fishing.

The Gainesville Parks and Recreation Department maintains 30 parks and plans a year-round schedule or recreational activities and competitive sports for residents of all ages. Area anglers have easy access to six fresh water lakes. All six offer boat ramps and two provide accommodations and campsites with covered boat slips. In addition to this water attraction, many area lakes and springs offer swimming beaches and scuba diving into underwater caves for certified divers.

Gainesville fl, ranked among the top 10 bicycling communities in the U.S.The Gainesville area has seven excellent golf courses to challenge the most avid golfer. Five are public or semi-private and all offer 18 holes of play. Opportunities for tennis are numerous and several health clubs offer handball and racquetball courts plus various other fitness equipment.

Cyclists can go almost anywhere in the county in safety. Gainesville has been ranked among the top 10 bicycling communities in the U.S. by Bicycling Magazine. It has 60 miles of roadways with on-street bicycle lanes or paved shoulders, plus another 17 miles of roads with wide curb lanes.

Several points in Alachua County draw nature lovers to view their spectacular beauty. These include:
 
Devil's Millhopper State Geological Site
Devil's Millhopper is a National Natural LandmarkIn the midst of north Florida's sandy terrain and pine forests, a bowl-shaped cavity 120 feet deep leads down to a miniature rain forest. Small streams trickle down the steep slopes of the limestone sinkhole, disappearing through crevices in the ground, and lush vegetation thrives in the shade of the walls even in dry summers. A significant geological formation, Devil's Millhopper is a National Natural Landmark that has been visited by the curious since the early 1880s. Researchers have learned a great deal about Florida's natural history by studying fossil shark teeth, marine shells, and the fossilized remains of extinct land animals found in the sink. Visitors can enjoy picnicking and learn more about this sinkhole through interpretive displays
   
Payne’s Prairie State Preserve
Payne’s Prairie a popular destination for natures lovers of all ages in north floridaVisitors are able to boat, camp, hike, bird watch, fish and picnic on this 20,000-acre wildlife sanctuary. Payne’s Prairie has always been a popular destination for natures lovers of all ages. With ponds and 3 lakes, Payne’s Prairie is a wintering area for many migratory birds such as the sandhill crane, and home to many Florida alligators and wild herds of horses and American Bison. This state preserve features an observation tower for your viewing pleasure, a visitor’s center complete with its own museum.

The Hawthorne Trail
the 17 mile Hawthorne Trail attracts many outdoor enthusiasts throughout Alachua countyThe Hawthorne Trail (part of Florida's Rails to Trails Program) attracts many outdoor enthusiasts to walk, cycle or ride horseback through its 17-mile length. The trail extends from Gainesville’s historic Boulware Springs Park at Payne’s Prairie through Lochloosa Wildlife Management Area to the town of Hawthorne. Travelers on the trail are treated to changing landscapes past Prairie vistas, deep lakes, lush forest, and the plants and animals that live there.

   
Dudley Farm Historic State Park
Dudley farms is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Gainesville flListed on the National Register of Historic Places, this park demonstrates the evolution of Florida farming from the 1850s to the mid-1940s-through three generations of the Dudley family. An authentic working farm, the homestead consists of eighteen buildings, including the family farmhouse with original furnishings, an 1880s kitchen outbuilding, a general store and post office, and a functional cane syrup complex. Park staffs in period clothing perform daily chores, raising crops, and tending to livestock. The farm features seasonal cane grindings, corn shuckings, and heritage varieties of livestock and plants. Deer, wild turkeys, gopher tortoises, and bluebirds are still seen in the fields.

Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Ichetucknee Springs is a National Natural Landmark by the U. S. Department of the InteriorThe crystalline Ichetucknee River flows six miles through shaded hammocks and wetlands before it joins the Santa Fe River. Ichetucknee is a first magnitude spring discharging more than 240 million gallons of crystal clear water into the river daily at a constant 72 degrees. In 1972, the head spring of the river was declared a National Natural Landmark by the U. S. Department of the Interior. From the end of May until early September, tubing down the river is the premier activity in the area with more than 200,000 visitors annually. In addition to tubing, visitors can enjoy picnicking, snorkeling, scuba diving, canoeing, swimming, hiking, and wildlife viewing. White-tailed deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, wood ducks and great blue herons can be seen from the river. Picnic areas, equipped with tables and grills, are available throughout the park. A full-service concession offers food, refreshments, and outdoor products from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Tubes plus snorkeling and diving equipment can be rented from private vendors outside the park.

   
Morningside Nature Center
Experience the life style of a family farm in North Central Florida 100 years agoExperience the life style of a family farm in North Central Florida 100 years ago. Visit the 278-acre Living History Farm featuring barnyard animals, an 1840 cabin, a turn-of-the-century kitchen, heirloom garden, schoolhouse, and barn. Explore 7 miles of trails and boardwalk through sand hill, long leaf pine and cypress habitats including over 130 bird species, 225 wildflowers species, mammals and reptiles. The center features live animal exhibits, educational programs and a wildlife observation blind.

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is a 62 acre facility operated by the North Florida Botanical SocietyKanapaha Botanical Gardens is a 62 acre facility developed and operated by the North Florida Botanical Society, a non-profit educational organization. In 1978, the Society signed a lease agreement with Alachua County whereby it gained access to a 33 acre tract of land for the development of a public botanical garden; in 1982, an additional 29 acre parcel was added to the lease, bringing Kanapaha Botanical Society to its present size. The Gardens' name is derived from its proximity to 250 acre Lake Kanapaha. The word Kanapaha is derived from the Timucua Indian words for "palmetto leaf" and "house." Taken together, they refer to the thatched dwellings that were home to the original residents of a small Timucua village on the western shore of Lake Kanapaha. Between 1978 and 1986, the infrastructure and initial plantings were completed and Kanapaha Botanical Gardens was formally opened to the public on October 16, 1986.

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is comprised of 14 major collections visually accessible from a 1 ˝ mile paved walkway. These include the state's largest public display of bamboos and the largest herb garden in the Southeast. Some of Kanapaha's gardens are organized taxonomically; others demonstrate principles of ecology or natural selection. Kanapaha's signature plants include a premier stand of Chinese royal bamboo (Wong Chuk), and--during the warm months--giant Victoria water lilies and Asian snake arums. The months offering the most color are June through September.

   
Santa Fe Community College Teaching Zoo
Youngsters and adults alike enjoy visiting the Santa Fe Community College Teaching Zoo featuring mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles from around the world. In addition, the zoo houses endangered species from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Americas. This zoo is the only community college teaching zoo in the nation. Guided tours are led by by zoo keepers daily.

zoo located in North florida is the only community college teaching zoo in the nationPoe Springs Park
Make a big splash in the cold, clear waters of Poe Springs. This 202-acre park on the Santa Fe River features rolling hills, bluffs, a sparkling spring, hardwood swamp and a variety of wildlife. The park offers a boat ramp, nature trail, playground, restrooms, picnic area with shelters and concession building.

Bivens Arm Nature Park
Enjoy 54 acres of oak hammock and marsh traversed by a 1 mile nature trail that includes a 1200-foot boardwalk. The park offers a Wildlife sanctuary, nature park, picnic tables and pavilion for your enjoyment.

Ginnie Springs
Ginnie Springs is a mecca for serious scuba divers. Nine springs, including the incredible Devil’s Eye, well up in sparkling abundance.

Santa Fe Canoe Outpost
Santa Fe River- the “most beautiful and unusual waterway in North FloridaVisitors will enjoy the river adventures with expert outfitters along the Santa Fe River- the “most beautiful and unusual waterway in North Florida as well as being of considerable historical interest”. Paddlers choose from guided tours, private parties, self-guided trips, moonlight drifts and overnight excursions. The river is punctuated by world famous Florida springs for swimming, snorkeling, and picnicking. All equipment for paddling and camping is available.

Historic Haile Homestead at Kanapaha Plantation
Haile Homestead is one of the few remaining antebellum plantation homes in North Central FloridaThe historic Haile Homestead is one of the few remaining antebellum plantation homes in North Central Florida. This huge 7,000 square foot structure had been carefully restored to reflect its days as a cotton plantation dating back to the late 1850’s. Of particular interest are the family notes written on the interior walls for more than 100 years – over 12,500 words in almost every room.

 
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