Raised trails trace the edges of water impoundments, providing an elevated view above sawgrass marshes that abound with wading herons, cranes, ibises, ducks, and occasional Limpkins. Winter, when wading birds stand out against the grays and greens of the swamp, is my favorite season. Red-shouldered Hawks hunt from perches in the palms, while Turkey Vultures, Bald Eagles, and Osprey circle overhead. The stretch of pinewoods and palmettos is a great place to listen for woodpeckers.
Be prepared to spot more than birds. Armadillo, raccoon, and bobcat tracks crisscross the sandy trails, river otters often gambol near the parking lot, and you may have to tiptoe around an eight-foot alligator. — Justine E. Hausheer
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Sawgrass marshes, hardwood swamps, pinewoods, lakes, and canals.
Wide, level dirt paths above the marsh and canals.
More than 200 species. Winter: Sandhill Crane, American Bittern, Great and Snowy Egrets, Tricolored, Great Blue, and Little Blue Herons, Glossy and White Ibises, Red-shouldered Hawk, Osprey, Turkey Vulture, American Kestrel, Bald Eagle, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Barred Owl, American Coot, Wood and Ring-necked Ducks, Anhinga, Palm Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Golden- and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Red-winged Blackbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker. Limpkin and Wood Stork uncommon in winter. Spring and fall: Solitary, Western, and other sandpipers, Palm, Pine, Yellow-throated, Prothonotary, and other warblers, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Yellow-billed Cuckoo.
When to go
December through March, when temperatures are cool and mosquitos less common.
Downloadable bird checklist on website. Bird walks every Saturday. Restrooms at visitor center.
National wildlife refuge. Open year-round from sunrise to sunset. Admission and parking free. Visitor center open Monday-Friday 8-4:30 and Saturday-Sunday 8-5, November-May.
Bring sun protection and insect repellant. Don’t miss the observation tower, which provides shade and a wide view of surrounding canals. Be alert for alligators sunning on trails. River otters are often seen near parking lot.
For more info
Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge, (386) 985-4673.
Friends of Lake Woodruff, (386) 985-4673.
West Volusia Audubon Society
Ocala National Forest
Pittman Visitor Center located about 25 minutes from Lake Woodruff at 45621 State Rd. 19 in Altoona. Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Florida Scrub-Jay, Bachman’s Sparrow.
De Leon Springs State Park
About a six-minute drive from Lake Woodruff at 601 Ponce de Leon Blvd. Good spot for migrating warblers.