The Lower Suwannee Refuge is one of the largest undeveloped river delta estuarine systems in the United States and provides habitat and protection for endangered and threatened species as well as migrating birds and native wildlife.
This 54,000-acre glimpse of natural Florida is Located on Florida’s west coast in the big bend area, in Levy & Dixie Counties, just north of the popular fishing & vacation spot of Cedar Key
In addition to the historic Suwannee River, the refuge also fronts 26 miles of the Gulf of Mexico, creating a landscape of tidal marches, tributary creeks, cypress swamps, and interior ponds.
The refuge is open year-round for nature hiking, wildlife viewing, and photography. There are trails along the Suwannee River and it’s hardwood swamps, boardwalk trails, trails with fishing access, and trails with a gulf view.
If you love observing nature but hiking is not necessarily your thing, (especially in the hot summer months) not to worry, there are 40 miles of improved roads scattered throughout the refuge where you can do all the awesome wildlife viewing from the comfort of your airconditioned car.
Hiking and biking are permitted on the improved roads and in addition, there are an additional 50 miles of secondary roads just for hikers and bikers.
The salt marshes and tidal flats of the refuge attract scores of shorebirds and the floodplain wetlands and wooded swamps support a thriving habitat for black bear, otter, alligator, raccoons, and wading birds. In the hardwood pines, visitors have the opportunity to spot, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and hogs.
Spring and summer bring a rainbow of color throughout the refuge, with blooming native wildflowers and aquatic plants.
The Refuge is a haven for both migrating and resident butterflies and peak season is late summer to early fall.
255 species of birds have been observed within the Lower Suwannee and nearby Cedar Key refuge and to add to the bird-watching fun, visitors should be sure to pick up a free bird checklist and see how many birds they can check off during their visit. The free checklist is available at shell mound, River Trail, and at various other locations around the refuge.
There are several launch sites for small boats, canoes and kayaks and paddling allows for access to many areas of the refuge that are off the beaten path.
Items of note and things to know before you go:
- This is a natural habitat and home to wild animals. Always be aware of your surroundings. Encounters with Florida Black Bear, wild hogs, alligators and poisonous snakes are not only possible but likely.
- A walking stick and good hiking boots are recommended for hikers
- Insects are numerous. Apply bug repellent in generous quantity and reapply often.
- Bring lots of water and stay hydrated
- There are no public restrooms
The Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge driving and hiking/biking trails can be found on Florida County Roads 347 & 349 and have very close proximity to Cedar Key making it a great day of outdoor activity for anyone vacationing there.