Disney Wilderness Preserve
Florida Guide > Disney General
Only a few miles away from the hustle of the parks lies the perfect place for a nature walk. This hidden place carries the Disney name -yet is one if its best kept secrets. It is a nature conservancy project called “The Disney Wilderness Preserve” at Scrub Jay Trail, Kissimmee FL 34759. It is in the same area as Boggy Creek airboat rides, and you could do both on the same day.
It is open weekdays only 9am to 5pm and although there is a charge of $3 to walk round the preserve there is no one collecting the admission as they use the honesty system and ask you simply to put your money into a box. Before setting off to explore the preserve. Make sure you pick up a copy of the leaflet s there so you can check what birds and butterflies you might see out on the trail –they are listed by month and whether they are local or visitors and whether they are a rare sighting
Although it is called Disney Wilderness preserve it is actually owned and run by the Nature Conservancy and was set up in 1992. Having previously been a cattle ranch, which needed pasture for the animals the land had been ditched and trees felled . As a result the land had altered so much from original wetlands to dry that there was a thought it would be used for urban development. Instead Disney, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority and environmental agencies to save the land and restore it to its previous glory . In 1992 when the NC took over they started to restore the wetlands use traditional methods to control the land and remove invasive species . As a result of this an ongoing work the area has been a success story in restoring the wetlands and water flow creating a new habitat for sand hill cranes and other water birds.
Restoration wasn’t simply for the water birds though and the area now provides habitats for Gopher tortoises, fox squirrels, scrub jays and other wild life. Staff at the Reserve has documented the sighting of two different Florida Panthers -the most endangered of Florida species.
There are 2 different trials you can walk after you have registered one is 2. 45 miles long and the other is just over 1 mile although when we visited (Jan 2009) this one was shut as it was being worked on. It is advisable to wear sunscreen and a hat whenever you go and carry drinking water with you as well as having sensible foot wear, as even in the summer some of the land is wet because of the nature of the land.
During the walk around you need to keep your eyes open and camera ready as this is home to 750 different plant species, 300 types of wildlife including 50 types of butterflies.
Take a stroll by Lake Russell one of the few lakes in the area without development around it . It is fed by Reedy Creek and if you were to kayak along Reedy Creek you would end up in Disney World . It empties into Lake Okeechobee and its eventual end is the Everglades 200 miles south. There is a picnic area overlooking the Lake, which is a welcome stopping point and one that has great views .
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