The Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve is an ecological treasure in central Florida, located between the bustling cities of Orlando and Tampa. From either metropolitan area, take Interstate 4 toward Lakeland, which is about halfway between the two cities. At Lakeland, take U.S. Highway 98 north toward Dade City, which is on the western side of the Green Swamp. Dade City makes a good starting point for your explorations.
Measuring 870 square miles, the Green Swamp is the second-largest wetlands system in Florida.
The swamp is a plateau that rises above the surrounding area, capturing rainwaters vital to Florida’s water supply. Water filters through the sandy soil and into the aquifer system, which provides drinking water to most of Florida. Water also flows on the surface of the 560,000-acre preserve, becoming the headwaters of four rivers:
Within the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve, 36 miles of the Withlacooche River have been designated an “Outstanding Florida Water.” This designation both recognizes and protects the natural beauty and water quality of this river.
Life in the busy city, even in a vacation paradise, can make you yearn for some green countryside. As a unique and intact ecosystem, the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve area abounds with diverse flora and fauna, making it a nature watcher’s delight. But please remember that most bodies of water in the area are home to alligators. They are best observed from a safe distance. Alligators are also a surface hazard on some roads near water, as they enjoy sunbathing on the asphalt.
The Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve area offers expansive opportunities for outdoor recreation. It encompasses five distinct management areas:
Between the wilderness areas and parks, there are ample backcountry roads to spend the day—or a weekend—exploring. If you are planning a Florida vacation on its west coast or at the Orlando attractions, consider visiting the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve.
Till next time, ride safe and watch out for the alligators!