Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sawgrass Lake Park in St. Petersburg

Sawgrass Lake Park is in the middle of a city. It's near highway I-275, a gun firing range, and neighborhoods of single family homes. We weren't sure how big the park was or what to expect. After parking the car in an area shaded by large oak trees we followed a sidewalk along a creek. A large alligator quietly swam by.

"Did you see that?"
"A big gator."
"No kidding. Look.  There it is!"

I double checked the edge of the creek to see if there were any more lurking around. People idly walked by with dogs on leashes.

We followed the path to a bridge that went across the creek and looked in the water. A man walked up to me and asked me about my camera. He said he was looking for a camera to take wildlife photos around the park.

I showed him some of the photos I had just taken of an anhinga in the creek. He was impressed. I showed him the model number of the camera. Then he told me about the big alligator that lives under the bridge. I said that I just saw a big gator swim by, and he said that it was probably the one.

I saw the gator swimming back to the bridge and take up position directly underneath us. Then the man told me about snakes under the bridge, the mama alligator with babies, and all the cool trails in the woods. We talked for a little bit about different nature preserves in the area. After talking about snakes and gators I wasn't sure if I really wanted to go across the bridge. I saw ladies with strollers and squealing little kids running across the bridge and decided that it couldn't be that bad. I shouldn't be a sissy. So I went down the trail to where the mama alligator was.

The wetland areas have elevated boardwalks over the alligator habitats. It was like walking through a fantasy land of giant ferns.

The female alligator with hatchlings is near an observation deck.

Hatchling alligator.

There's an observation tower by Sawgrass Lake. The water is clear. You can see turtles, fish, birds, and yes, there are alligators of various sizes. It looks so peaceful, but you can hear the sounds of the city around us. There was the wooshing sound of the highway and pops from the firing range. The wildlife didn't seem to mind.

There were huge Florida softshell turtles in the lake and creeks.

The Hammock Trail is wide enough that I felt comfortable walking through the woods. Parts of the trail are dirt, boardwalk, and bricked.

We saw an armadillo.

The Hammock Trail was beautiful. In some places it almost looked as if someone had arranged the oak trees and palmettos.

There were more trails than we had time to explore. Sawgrass Lake Park is 400 acres in size. It is one of the largest maple swamps on Florida's Gulf Coast.

More pictures of Sawgrass Lake Park

Address: Sawgrass Lake Park
7400 25th St. N.,
St. Petersburg, FL 33702

Hours: 7am - sunset

Admission: free

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