Birding enthusiasts, be sure to observe the many magnificent and unique species that live in Chiefland (See our list of State Bird Trails below). Perhaps the best way to truly fulfill your hobby is to plan a trip on foot through established hiking trails and wildlife refuges within the area.
Visit Manatee Springs State Park, located in Chiefland, to glimpse wading birds like herons, egrets, and ibis, sunbathing on the banks of the pristine Main Spring and the peaceful Suwannee River. If hiking is not your preferred transportation method, canoeing down the river will provide a quiet ride into nature. From this vantage point, closely observe an assortment of birds and other animals in their most comfortable environment. Lose yourself in Nature’s splendor, in the colors and sounds of Chiefland’s diverse bird population.
After you visit Manatee Springs, skip up to Fanning Springs State Park. Here, watch for red-shouldered hawks, pileated woodpeckers, and barred owls on the beautiful nature trails, or by boat or canoe.At the small spring, make your way to the dive and observation platform for one of the best birding opportunities in the area.
At Goethe State Forest, view eleven (11) natural communities abounding with bird life. You might spot a bald eagle, southeastern American kestrel, or some red-cockaded woodpeckers.
Specific guidelines should be followed to make the most out of your birding experience.
- Avoid pollution of the habitat, plan restroom stops and do not litter. Also, bring a trash bag with you and recycle when possible.
- Keep motor vehicles on designated roadways and parking areas.
- Observe all speed limits when boating. Keep to established channels when possible. Be sure to watch your depth and adhere to speed signs to protect the manatee and other marine animals. Avoid prop dredging and/or sea grass damage.
- Take care when approaching spoil islands-do so quietly and do not attempt to walk on them. This may result in the abandonment of eggs or young chicks, or expose any nests to predation.
- Stay on designated pathways and trails. Do not trample or disturb fragile habitats, including marshes, wild flowers, and tangles.
- Avoid excessive and unnecessary use of squeakers, tape recorders, and “pishing”.
- Respect property and privacy. Request permission when needed and keep noise to a minimum. Avoid quick movements and dissonant noises.
- If photographing, be sure to leave the habitat as you found it, especially around nests. Tie branches or grass back if you need to move it-do not cut it.
For more information:
Manatee Springs State Park
call (352) 493-6072
For more informatio :
Goethe State Forest, call (352) 465-8585
Or visit www.fl-dof.com
The Great Florida Birding Trail:
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – This PDF is complete with location maps, directions, birding tips, hours of operation and more with 117 Birding locations in Florida – State Birding Trails Book – PDF
Greater Chiefland Birding Trails
Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge (North end)
Shired Island Beach access offers trails through coastal hammock past mudflats and open beach good for everything from wintering shorebirds to songbird migrants making landfall in spring. Dixie Mainline is a 9 mi.-driving/biking/walking road through pine flat woods, bottomland hardwoods and marsh. Gorgeous birding, but be aware that hunting use is intense on this area Oct./Nov., when biking/ hiking are not advised. Fishbone Creek offers a platform vantage of saltmarsh. Salt Creek has an ADA-accessible boardwalk to the marsh where bald eagles frequently nest. There is always something to see here year-round, but be prepared for biting insects in warm weather.
DIRECTIONS: Shired Island Beach (a): Follow CR 351 from Cross City to CR 357. Turn SW and follow it all the way to the Gulf. Dixie Mainline Termini (b) are on CR 357 (5 miles from the Gulf) and CR 349 (3 miles from the Gulf). Fishbone Creek (c): Entrance is on the N side of CR 357 1 mi. SW of the entrance for Dixie Mainline. Salt Creek (d): From the CR 349 terminus of Dixie Mainline, go north 0.5 mi. and turn left (W); park at end of road (do not block gate).
Open 24 hours/day. (352) 493-0238 Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge
Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge (Headquarters)
Trail is a brief lowland walk through a cypress and maple swamp to a boardwalk at the water’s edge. For driving access, visit the Loop Road through dark, cool lowlands good for songbirds. Tram roads off into the swamp offer the opportunity to get out and hike. Part of this area is open to hunting, so check seasons before you arrive. Shell Mound Trail winds around a Native American midden, and can be good for songbirds while affording excellent views of the salt marsh.
DIRECTIONS: Headquarters Trail (a): From Chiefland, take SR 19 S to CR 347. Drive W on CR 347 12 mi. Here, CR 347 meets CR 330 at a stop sign. Continue to the left on CR 347. Five miles ahead on the right, follow signs to the nature trail at the Refuge Headquarters. Loop Road (b, c): one mile further on the right (W) side of CR 347 is the entrance to the Refuge Loop Road. This driving trail returns to CR 347 approx. 4.0 mi. further south. Shell Mound (d): From Cedar Key, take CR 24 N to CR 347 and turn left (N). Follow CR 347 approx. 3 mi. to CR 326. Turn left (W) and follow the signs to the Shell Mound trail at the end.
Open 24 hours a day. (352) 493-0238; Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge
Hart Springs Park
This small county park is mostly used for swimming in warm weather, but offers a nice boardwalk through bald cypress along the Suwannee River. Wood storks and pileated woodpeckers, prothonotary warblers and bald eagles are all possible. Trails through thick xeric hammock lead to some open areas for meadowlarks and bobwhites.
DIRECTIONS: From Fanning Springs, travel 2 mi. E on SR 26.
Turn left (N) on CR 232, and go to CR 344. Turn left (W), the road dead ends at the park.
Open 9:00 a.m. to sunset. (352) 463-3444
Fanning Springs State Park
This small park known for its swimming hosts a birding festival each spring. A boardwalk through cypress down to the spring returns through mesic hammock. Eastern phoebes snatch insects in open areas and a brief nature trail behind the bath house runs through broadleaf forest nice for migrants in season, Mississippi kites in summer.
DIRECTIONS: On the W side of US 19 in Fanning Springs, 0.5 mi. S of the Suwannee River bridge.
Open 8:00 a.m. to dusk. (352) 463-3420;
Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve
The east end of this site features upland sand hills and scrubs, home to the elusive Florida scrub-jay and short-tailed hawks. The W end slopes down through Black Point Swamp to tidal creeks and salt marsh. This is a beautiful, rustic preserve. Come with water; prepare to hike. Limited hunting on-site Sept. – Nov. Call for dates.
DIRECTIONS: From Cedar Key, follow CR 24 out of town, and veer left onto CR 347. Entrance is one mile ahead from this intersection, on the left (W) side of the road. Open dawn to dusk. (352) 543-5567; Cedar Key Scrub Wildlife Management Area
Andrews Wildlife Management Area
This area’s old-growth hardwoods and open understory are good for turkey and migrants like worm-eating warblers and Eastern wood-pewees. Suwannee River frontage offers water birds, and there is an extensive system of roads passable to 2WD. Intimate hiking trails access more remote areas with state champion trees. Hunting closes area to birding 10 weekends from Sept. to Apr. Call for dates.
DIRECTIONS: From Fanning Springs, travel 2.5 mi. S on US 19 to NW 160th St. Turn right (W) and follow the road to the site at the end.
Open dawn to dusk. (352) 493-6020. www.floridaconservation.org
Manatee Springs State Park
A boardwalk meanders from the spring along the run to the Suwannee River, through a cypress stand good for migrants. Watch the far shore for cryptic limpkins. At the river, there is a large vulture roost, as well as an opportunity to view waders and ducks on the river. Spring is popular with swimmers. River offers more birding opportunities than upland nature trails.
DIRECTIONS: From US 19 in Chiefland, turn W onto SR 320 and follow it to the park at the end.
Open 8:00 a.m. to dusk, 365 days/year. (352) 493-6072;
Manatee Springs State Park
Number 4 Bridge and Fishing Pier
In late fall and winter, flats in the channels between the islands of Cedar Key host a tremendous diversity of shorebirds, and can be viewed from vantages like this one. Kayak concessions offer a unique access to the surrounding waters, where peregrines stoop on clusters of sandpipers and kettles of white pelicans soar on thermals. Roseate Spoonbills are summer treats.
DIRECTIONS: Take SR 24 towards Cedar Key. After crossing the first bridge to the keys, take the first left (E) onto SW 153rd Ct. Follow the road to the fishing pier/overlook at the end. Open sunrise to sunset.
Cedar Key City Park, Marina & Fishing Pier
As long as you’re in Cedar Key, you might as well check the waterfront for lingering night herons on pilings in the marina or spotted sandpipers bobbing on the rocky shore. Sandy spits off the city park are teeming with peeps in winter.
DIRECTIONS: Drive SR 24 into Cedar Key and turn left at the first stop sign onto 2nd St. Go 3 blocks to A St. Park is on the corner of 2nd and A; A St. becomes Dock St. at Waterfront. Open dawn to dusk.
Goethe State Forest
Get a map at Forest HQ or at trailheads. Most open forest roads are accessible to 2WD vehicles. Hunting pressure is very heavy Nov.-Dec.; wear blaze orange. Drive North Prong Rd. E to Gas Line Rd. and follow Gas Line NE through longleaf pines. Red cockaded woodpecker (RCW) cavity trees are ringed with white paint; one cluster is on the W side of Gas Line just before Apex Rd. North-south Cow Creek and Black Prong roads also offer nice flat woods, cypress domes and freshwater creeks. Another RCW cluster is located on the W side of Cow Creek Rd. 2.5 miles S of CR 326. Extensive, rustic hiking/ horseback riding trails are available.
DIRECTIONS: From Inglis, drive 10 mi. N on US 19 to its intersection with CR 121 and CR 336. Gas Line Rd. (a): Bear right (N) onto CR 121 and make another quick right (SE) onto CR 336. After approx. 0.9 mi. turn left (N) onto North Prong Rd. Follow this road to its end at the intersection with Gas Line Rd. and turn left. Cow Creek Rd. (b): Bear right (N) onto CR 121, cross CR 336 and continue approx. 1.2 mi. N. Turn left onto Cow Creek Rd. HQ is located on the E side of the forest at 9110 SE CR 337.
Open dawn to dusk. (352) 465-8585;
Goethe State Forest
Goethe Wildlife Management Area