Hidden Secrets of Florida WMAs

If you have spent more than a couple hours exploring natural Florida, chances are that you’ve had a “wow moment.” Maybe it was that instant when you turned a corner and a view you couldn’t believe unfolded in front of you or when a creature you didn’t expect to see crossed your path. The complex biodiversity and human history of the state ensures that properties encompassing significant swaths of nature contain plenty of “wow” material. Take, for instance, Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area.

In the early part of the 20th century, gargantuan bald cypress trees dominated the swampy lowlands of what is now Chassahowitzka WMA. Trees with diameters of 16 feet were not uncommon.

However, at a time when trees were seen mainly for their financial potential, the ancient forests were doomed. A boom town named Centralia sprung up around one of the largest logging mills to ever exist in Florida.

Centralia existed for seven years before the mill became unprofitable due to the lack of available trees. Fifteen hundred people lost their jobs and nature began to reclaim the site.

Today, intrepid visitors can discover this history for themselves. Hidden among cabbage palms and pines sits the Centralia town site. Trees and vines cover concrete foundations and slowly-rotting cypress trunks decay slowly in the old float pond.

The real prize, though, lies far down one of the old logging trams that pierces the heart of the swamp. Over one mile from the nearest road, a true behemoth of a bald cypress grows as it has for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years. For whatever reason, this tree was passed by.

Other unusual features of Chassahowitzka WMA include a spring in the middle of a swamp, one of the largest underwater caverns in the United States and secretive species such as the short-tailed snake and coastal lowland cave crayfish.

And that’s just one Wildlife Management Area. Forty-five other FWC lead-managed areas and 101 cooperatively-managed areas all contain hidden secrets of their own. Whether you want to visit an ancient Native American site, paddle down an isolated waterway, view fascinating wildlife species or simply explore the most remote spots in Florida, new discoveries reward every WMA visit.

Join us on Saturday, May 6 for a bioblitz at Aucilla Wildlife Management Area where you can discover hidden secrets of your own. You will have the chance to join experts to document as much life as possible from the area in a day. Would you like to see some of the best hidden secrets at every Wildlife Management Area? Take part in the Geocaching Challenge and try to find the two 75th Anniversary geocoins on FWC Lead Wildlife Management Areas. Don’t forget to share photos of your explorations on our Wildlife Management Areas in our 75th Anniversary Photo Contest and your observations with the Florida Nature Trackers program.