Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation

La Chua Trail: the Real “Gatorland”

Gators basking in the sun

Entering Gator Country

Gainesville is known for being home to the University of Florida Gators. Turns out it is also home to hundreds of very real and very large American Alligators. On the north end of Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park lies the La Chua Trail, where all kinds of local wildlife congregate in mass. When I visited, there were easily 100+ gators soaking up some sun on a cool winter’s day.

An Oasis with a Suprise

From the surface, this area may appear to be a lake, but turns out it is actually a sinkhole! Known as the Alachua Sink, this huge sinkhole acts as a drain for the whole park and it connects directly to the Florida Aquifer. Depending on the time of year you visit, the water levels can vary drastically.

Wildlife Paradise

Along with the alligators, there were numerous different bird species. I spotted bald eagles, turkey vultures, wood storks, great blue herons, egrets, and more. The wild bison and horses of the park are also known to frequent this section when it’s dry. This is one of the few places that I have been in the Corridor where I have felt “overwhelmed” with the amount of wildlife present. There were just too many animals for me to photograph!

Snail Kites: The Coolest Bird You Have Never Heard Of

Continuing my trek on the La Chua Trail, I also encountered a bird that I had never seen or heard of before. Turns out this menacing, red-eyed raptor is known as a Snail Kite, a federally endangered bird that almost exclusively eats snails. What is fascinating about these birds of prey, is that they are pest control for one of Florida’s worst invasive species, the island Apple Snail. These snails rapidly reproduce and quickly devour all types of aquatic vegetation, causing harm to our delicate wetland habitats. On the banks of the trail, I saw many piles of empty shells, so I knew these kites were doing their job protecting our ecosystem from invaders.

Explore for Yourself

If you are looking for wildlife within the Corridor, then this is the place to be. I have been venturing all over the state for the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation and so far, nothing compares to the sheer quantity and biodiversity of wildlife at the La Chua Trail. Everyday I’m in awe of what the Corridor has to offer and I encourage everyone to get out and explore it for yourselves!

Ethan Coyle Photography Intern
Ethan is a senior at the University of South Florida studying Advertising and Environmental Science. Born and raised in Lakeland, Florida, he has spent most of his time outdoors leading him to develop a passion for nature photography. Most recently, he spent his spring break exploring the Everglades after being inspired by the “Path of the Panther” documentary. He is a true lover of old Florida and hopes to use his visual creativity to spark interest in preserving our state’s beautiful landscapes.
Exit mobile version