By traveling this 40-mile route, you'll be treated to fabulous birdlife sights from the comfort of your vehicle and by venturing along several short hikes. Visitors find the late fall and winter seasons most rewarding, with a few exceptions. Begin the trip just south of Okeechobee at the intersection of U.S. Highway 441 and State Route 78. Here, you'll find Parrot Avenue Wayside Park. A boardwalk offers a dry route to sights of various wading birds and wintering waterfowl. Head southwest along SR 78 to the Okee-tantie Recreation Area, which is known as one of the finest water sports and fishing destinations in the entire country. In addition to viewing wildlife, visitors will find a campground, guide service, tackle & bait, and much more. Traveling farther southwest along SR 78, the next two stops are actually canal access points, Indian Prairie Canal and Harvey Pond Canal. Expect to see great egrets, anhingas, limpkins, great blue and little blue herons, white ibis, and wood storks. If traveling in winter, look for plump American coots. These 15" birds are often seen with ducks feeding on water and shore. Listen for their strange grunts and cackles and watch for their entertaining take-offs. They must first patter along on water's surface before flight. In the same area, take a lingering look into the palm savannas where burrowing owls, crested caracara, and sandhill cranes take residence. The 9" burrowing owl is a diurnal creature often appearing quite comical. Upon approach it bobs up and down then dives into a sandy burrow rather than taking flight. The crested caracara is another member of the raptor family and probably one of the most unusual in appearance. The handsome creature stands up to 22" tall with a black cap and bare red face. The throat and neck are white with a solid black body. Look for it in the open prairies. Incidentally, it is Mexico's national emblem. The other bird enjoying the dry prairie habitat is the sandhill crane. This tall gray bird with red forehead stands between 34 and 38" high. If traveling in summer, spend some time at Fisheating Creek Wayside Park which is farther south along SR 78. Here, you'll see hundreds of swallow-tailed kites between the summer months of June and August. This is a favorite location before their journey south. Other species that have been spotted along this 40-mile route include endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers, scrub jays, and bald eagles. Other wildlife found in abundance include American alligators, turtles, snakes, and frogs. Binocular and camera make a good accompaniment.
Elevation: 5 Feet
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Distance: 40 Miles
Directions: From Okeechobee, FL, Just south of town at the intersection of U.S. Highway 441 and State Route 78 marks the beginning of this 40-mile wildlife viewing excursion. Don't forget binoculars!
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Lake Okeechobee And Waterway
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