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Gainesville’s Outdoor Recreation Attracts Nature Lovers

Gainesville's parks and natural areas give people places to hike, bike, view wildlife and kayak.

By Kevin Litwin on September 25, 2014

Gainesville, FL
Gainesville / iStock/Sean Pavone

Gainesville’s outdoor attractions welcome those who love natural beauty and ways to get active. The area’s climate, parks and protected natural areas provide opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, birding and kayaking.

Six state parks offer their own recreation experiences, from historical sites to floodplain swamps. Some popular attractions include the more than 20 biological communities at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and O’Leno State Park, where visitors can watch the Santa Fe River from a suspension bridge. The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park remains preserved as it was in the 1930s, complete with a barn, seasonal garden and walking trail.

Gum Root Park measures 741 acres of mostly floodplain swamp and serves as an ideal location for birding and wildlife viewing. River Rise Preserve State Park also offers abundant wildlife and horseback riding. For those who want to cast a line, River Rise Preserve State Park and Lake Santa Fe offer prime fishing spots. Meanwhile, fishing, canoeing and kayaking is available at Palm Point Nature Park.

Poe Springs Park, home to the area’s largest spring, and Natural North Florida, which has the largest collection of springs in the world, are great places for hiking and biking. Wildlife such as alligators and migratory sandhill cranes can be seen on the La Chua Trail. Hikers will enjoy the 7,350-acre San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, designed just for hiking among mature Florida hammock woodland. Or, they can trek 120 feet below to see a miniature rain forest at Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park.

These attractions and Gainesville’s natural beauty also helped earn the city a No. 35 spot on Livability.com’s Top 100 Best Places to Live in 2014.

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