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Orlando Wetlands Park - One of Orlando Florida's Hidden Gems
After the Seminole wars in the 1830s, people moved to the area and built Fort Christmas. After the Civil War, the area was used for cow pasture and the trees where logged for lumber. In the 1940s, the land where the park is today was a dairy farm. In 1986, the City of Orlando purchased the 1,650 acres of land and turned 1,220 acres into wetlands to be used as a giant filter to clean treated water before it went back into the Saint Johns River. This was one of the world's first few wetland water treatment filters, which has been copied in various communities around the country since. The wetlands are broken up into sections with different water depths. The treated water makes a 40 day trip through the various sections, each with their own type of habitat. The city planted about 2.3 million aquatic plants to create the wetlands. After the water leaves the wetlands, it has less nitrogen and phosphorus than in the Saint Johns River where it flows into. Since the water from the wetlands is cleaner than the river, it helps dilute the pollutants already in the river, making the water downstream cleaner than the water upstream. That's some really clean water considering it came from toilets, farms, and storm drains. The wetlands also happen to be very popular for wildlife, including endangered species. The park is a great example of how we can use nature to solve some of our problems.
More than 145 species of bird have been seen there. During the winter months, numerous species of birds use it as a winter home. Also, there are large numbers of bird species that use it as a year round home. Some of the species you can expect to see are: Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Tri-colored Heron, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Osprey, Red Shouldered Hawk, Bald Eagle, Crested Caracara, Limpkin, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Wood Stork, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Black-crowned Night Heron, Green-backed Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Peregrine Falcon, Florida Sandhill Crane, Everglades Snail Kite, Anhinga, Kingfishers, Cormorant, various ducks, various owls, and more.
Alligators everywhereClick thumbnail to view full-size
The wetlands serve as a home to many species of wildlife. The animal I see the most when I go there is the Alligator. There are hundreds of them everywhere. On a good day, you can see 20 gators resting by the road or on the road. If you know how to look for them, you'll find many more in the water. Usually, you will only see their eyes and snout peeking out of the water. They can easily be mistaken for logs floating in the water. There is a variety of snakes, turtles, and mammals that call the park home as well. Some of these species include, Indigo Snake, Florida Soft-shelled turtle, White-tailed Deer, River Otter, Raccoons, Opossum, Bobcat, Fox, Florida Panther, Armadillo, and the list goes on.
Other Reptiles and AmphibiansClick thumbnail to view full-size
Park hours and information:
The park is open from sunrise to sunset and is closed from November 15 to February 1. If I remember correctly, Pets are not allowed (probably cause the gators will eat them). Riding bicycles is permitted and I'm sure a wheel chair could make it through the park with a little assistance. It is free to enter the park. The park's address is: 25155 Wheeler Road, Christmas, FL 32709-9257. It is located about 30 - 40 minutes east from Orlando.
To get there from Orlando:
- Head east on highway 50
- Turn left on Fort Christmas Road
- Pass Fort Christmas
- Turn right at Wheeler Road, it will take you straight to it
All pictures in this article were taken with this camera:
Links about Orlando Wetlands Park
- Orlando Wetlands Park - Christmas Florida
Much more detailed information about the history of the area and it's operations
- Florida FDEP - Domestic Wastewater - Orlando Easterly Wetlands Birds
Full list of every species seen at the park. It's a long list.
- Florida FDEP - Domestic Wastewater - Orlando Easterly Wetlands
More information from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
- City of Orlando Public Works Department
City of Orlando Public Works Department - Orlando Wetlands Park