I met a friendly guy from St. Johns River Water Management District on the trail who said this land who said that SJRWMD was working to slow the flow of water from Sawmill Creek into the Silver River. The idea is to keep the river clearer while also preserving water to (potentially) pump back into a local, Marion County aquifer.
He also said this land was recently owned by Rayonier, a timber company. This would account for the hard roads, and with miles of trails this is a place you might rather bike than hike. In fact, following the White Blaze Loop, I was struck by how searing white the trail appeared in the sun. All trails are firm with no sweet sand and quite flat, making them ideal for biking or running.
I also the Red Blaze Trail Loop – over 11 miles starting at a white blaze entrance with way points marked at AllTrails.
Entrance is easy with plenty of parking either from either County Road 315 or from 326, and while the White Blaze Loop offers 6 miles of great hiking or biking from either end of the conservation area, there are many miles left to see.
The trails are wide, used by SJWMD vehicles, so you won’t need to swat away spider webs or worry too much about mosquitoes. The packed earth is ideal for relatively easy biking as well as hiking, and the grassy, off-loop trails are well-maintained with mowing.
The red and white trails are well marked too. I did both and could hardly believe I was the only person there on a Sunday. If you want a great outdoor opportunity not far from town, this is ideal.
Unmarked trails are easy to access without getting lost, and you are sure to encounter an abundant variety of flora including wildflowers. Springs, particularly on the red loop, attract a variety wildlife including feral hogs, deer, bear, bald eagles, and waterfowl such as ibis and egrets. Autumn livens up in yellow, orange and red thanks to copious sugar maple and deciduous vines.
And watch for the little things. Among the photos below is also an odd find, an Orb Spider (Arrowhead variety, Verrucosa arenata) notable for the yellow arrowhead shape on its abdomen. I also had the good fortune to find a largeflower rose gentium – Marsh Pink. See both in images below.
Trail Images Below
Arrowhead Orb Weaver
Palms and Pine
Trail into mist
Sabatia grandiflora, largeflower rose gentium – Marsh Pink