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Reported: January 2020

Florida Eco-biking... Orlando Wetlands Park

We were wowed, had no idea this gem existed just outside Orlando - comparable to Black Point Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island (without cars), and yes, there really is a place named Christmas, FL! Orlando Wetlands Park is a 1,650-acre, man-made wetland created to treat reclaimed water as it flows to the St. Johns River (see more below). The added result is an oasis filled with wildlife - a wonderful destination for photography, walking, and biking with unlimited nature and wildlife viewing - over 200 bird species identified, plus otter, foxes, deer, turtles, snakes and alligators. Bicycling is allowed on the berm roads, best for fat tires or mountain bikes. There's no shade, so bring water and sunscreen. (Map link and photos below.)

Orlando Wetlands Park

Map link...
Orlando Wetlands Eco-Biking


View larger map

Location: Wheeler Rd., Christmas, FL (Orange County)
Mileage: 18 miles of berm roads to ride, go as far as you want
Surface: Packed dirt, gravel, sand, grass
Nearby Points of interest: Fort Christmas Historical Park

Bike Shops/Rentals:

N/A

Support and Advocacy:

Friends of the Orlando Wetlands

ORLANDO WETLANDS PARK... Comments and Photos

The berm roads are given wildlife names, and "street signs" let you know where you are - pick up a map at the Visitor Pavilion at the trailhead. You can ride the mapped 2-mile Birding Loop, or the 3-mile Lake Searcy Loop, or make up your own route as far as you'd like to go. Some trails and the Perimeter Trail are hiking only, so watch the signs. We randomly rode along the berms, about 7 miles.


Trailhead

To reach the park off SR 50, go north on Fort Christmas Road (CR 420) about 2.25 miles (past Fort Christmas), turn right on Wheeler Road and continue another 1.5 mile to the park entrance. Admission to the park is free, open sunrise to sunset - parking, restrooms, water, picnic pavilions, Education Center (open Fridays and Saturdays), and a Visitor Pavilion with maps and information. A tram runs on weekends. No vehicles, camping, cooking fires, hunting, fishing, swimming, or drones are permitted.


Wetlands Blvd. to Alligator Alley to Otter Blvd.

Leaving the trailhead is a crossroads, to the Birding Loop or to Lake Searcy Loop. We continued on Wetlands Blvd. and the Birding Loop, here it's a wide, hard-packed path with many birdwatchers and photographers. We walked parts of this stretch, so many views!

We turned onto Alligator Alley, here the berm path is less heavily used, narrower and rougher. At Otter Blvd. we left the mapped loop - rather than going left back to the trailhead, we turned right to Bald Eagle Blvd. At the end of Alligator Alley and on Otter Blvd. were sections with softer sand but still rideable. With more stops for views, we also learned how Otter Blvd. got its name when an otter crossed in front of us!


Bald Eagle Blvd. to Vulture View

Bald Eagle Blvd. is along the northern boundary of the park, the wetlands to the south but hammock to the north. Some hiking-only trails branch off the road, leading to the Florida Trail. A stream (actually a ditch carrying water to the St. John's) along the northern perimeter is spanned by several bridges leading to the Perimeter Trail. There also are a couple of water monitoring stations. Past the first monitoring station is a turn-off onto Wetlands Blvd. and back to the trailhead, but we continued on Bald Eagle. Past the second monitoring station, Bald Eagle ends and becomes a hiking trail - turn onto Vulture View.

The second monitoring station is the end of the filtration system and you can see the final outflow from the wetlands. There's also another bridge crossing over to the perimeter trail.

Along Bald Eagle Blvd.

Monitoring Station and Outflow


Vulture View to Osprey Blvd. to Trailhead

Vulture View is somewhat sandy but rideable. It comes to a "crossroad" at Limpkin Lane and Osprey Blvd., we followed Osprey Blvd. now as part of the Lake Searcy Loop. Here the surface is more hard-packed with better wetlands views. A hiking-only trail branches off Osprey, while an observation platform provides an excellent view of the lake. Continuing on Osprey Blvd., we returned to the trailhead.


More Wildlife, Views

Just because...


More About Orlando Wetlands Park:

The park was created in 1987 to treat wastewater from the Iron Bridge Regional Water Reclamation facility. Reclaimed water from Iron Bridge flows to the Little Econ River, but population growth after it opened in 1982 strained its capacity. Wetlands filtration was identified as an alternate option. Reclaimed water from Iron Bridge (35 million gallons per day) is diverted and further filtered through the wetlands, naturally removing nitrogen and phosphorus from the water, taking about 40 days before reaching the St. Johns River. Over 2 million aquatic plants and 200,000 trees were planted to create the wetlands. The lake at the center provided landfill to build the wetland berms. The success of this project has become a model for other wetlands projects for both the advanced treatment of wastewater and beneficial reuse.

Resources:

City of Orlando - Orlando Wetlands Park

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