|Date:||Nov 28 – 29, 2022|
|Amenities:||20 amp, water|
|What we learned:||Maximize your time at a park you are only there for a short time|
|Would we go back?||Yes|
|Website:||Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park|
Since traffic usually is bad on highways after Thanksgiving, we left Grayton Beach early so we could get on the road heading towards home and our last campsite for the trip. The streets and highways (I-10 and I-75) did not get busy until we hit the Florida Turnpike. We arrived before noon and the lady at check-in let us know that the campsite might not be ready. That was fine as we are good to go to the visitor’s center and start exploring the park.
We drive through the campground and the site was empty but we drove the 1 mile to the visitors center instead of setting up camp and going by bike. I am very glad we did. As we were walking from the parking lot to the visitor’s center a bald eagle flew over. The volunteers in the visitor’s center let us know that they have been seeing the wild horse and hundreds of sandhill cranes. Wayne and I went back to get our cameras and binoculars and were off. Our first stop was the observation tower and from the top, you can see a large expanse of the prairie. There were about 10 wild horses straight ahead feeding in the grasses. I noticed 2 larger animals walking and asked the volunteer if these were the bison. He confirmed that yes there were 2 of the 24 wild bison. The volunteer said you might see them but then not see them for 30 days. Pretty rare to see them. Looking over to the right of the prairie, there was a herd of Florida scrub cattle. The horses and cattle were left by the Spaniards, which we read about in the book by Patrick Smith called “A Land Remembered.” We then took the Cones Dike Trail to get closer to the scrub cattle and the potential of seeing more of the bison. We did see scat of both the horses and bison but did not see either. After getting some pictures of the scrub cattle we went back to the visitor’s center where we were told there was a bald eagle nest in a tall pine tree.
After emptying our black and gray water tanks we went to the campsite and settled in for the night. I made halibut in the convection oven which was a nice last dinner of the trip. I think I may have the convection oven figured out. The real test will be if I can remember the process on the next trip. Even though we were only here for 1 day we saw so much. There is so much more of this park we still have to explore.
We woke up early as the traffic on a holiday weekend would be horrible and we wanted to miss most of it. The traffic did not get bad until we hit Orlando and was steady the whole way home.
Wildlife sightings: Bald Eagle, Wild Spanish horses, 2 Bison, a herd of scrub cattle, 10 Sandhill Cranes
When William Bartram, a famous naturalist, visited the prairie in 1774 American Bison were known to be in the area. The park service reintroduced the bison to the park in 1975 to help bring the park back to its original state. There are currently about 24 bison in the park. The bison had an issue where a good number died off due to disease but the herd is coming back. The volunteer said they do not manage the herd except for removing the aggressive males at times.
The volunteer organization for the park https://www.prairiefriends.org
NOTE: All photos and videos are the property of Wayne and Margaret Shoemake. If you want to use them, please click on the contact us page and email us.