There are many wonderful birding places around Lake Jesup, but the Lake Jesup CA easily has the most acreage. The conservation area is divided into three tracts: East Tract, North Tract, and the Marl Bed Flats Tract. All three tracts have value and are good places to visit, but finding these tracts can sometimes be difficult, and the directions on the Seminole County website can be incomplete or misleading. So I thought it would be good to give a summary of what is at each tract and where to find it.
East Tract (Elm Street)
Description:The East Tract contains a beautiful trail about 1 mile long round trip, and it takes you from Elm St. to an observation tower near the shore of Lake Jesup. The trail gives you beautiful views of Live Oaks, Pines and Palms, and the observation tower overlooks the marshy shore of Lake Jesup. With binoculars, you can see the lake as well. You can also see myfield reportof my visit for more information.
Directions:[Map] From rte 417, take rte 434 east (the first exist south of Lake Jesup). When rte 434 turns south (right), make a left onto Hammock Ln. Then make an immediate left onto De Leon St. When his road dead ends, make a right onto Howard Ave. Then make a left onto Elm St. You’ll find a sign for the Lake Jesup Conservation Area. You make a right there and then an immediate left into a fenced parking area and trail head. You’ll see no trespassing signs on your right when you pull in. I believe those signs are just for the private property bordering the conservation area, but they fooled me the first time I visited the trail.
North Tract (Cameron Avenue)
Description:I’ve only visited the North Tract once. It’s a pretty area. The trail is very poorly marked, and at one point you’ll come to a gate with a sign telling you to make sure the gate stays latched since there’s cattle in the fields. And there’s a lot of cattle there. I saw many cows and one bull; the bull made me a little nervous. Cow patties are everywhere.. The area is mostly flood plain with Palm hammocks. You can see the lake shore in the distance, and while the trail map doesn’t show a trail that leads you there, the trail is not really marked, and I don’t know that anything would prevent you from trying except getting wet in the process. You can also see my field report of my visit for more information.
Eastern Meadowlark at North Tract
Directions:[Map] From FL-417, take exit 49 toward Lake Mary Blvd. Continue down the ramp until you get to Ronald Reagan Blvd, then go Northeast on this road. Then make the second right (East) onto Lake Mary Blvd (the light is very close). Keep going on Lake Mary Blvd until you get just past the signs for the airport, and then make a right onto Cameron Ave. The parking area and trail head will be on your left.
Marl Bed Flats Tract (Oak Way)
Marl Bed Flats
Description:This is the tract I visit the most. It’s the most diverse with Oak Hammocks and flood plains. The trail map claims there are two trail loops. One with red blazes (0.8 miles) and one with yellow blazes (0.5). I’ll take them at their word, and I have seen trail blazes in the wooded areas, but in reality, once you get out of the wooded hammock the trail becomes, basically, walk where you’re most likely to stay dry and where you’re least likely to step on a cow patty. The more grassy areas can become very muddy and messy, and since we share the area with cattle, you have to watch where you step. The area to the left (on the red blaze trail) can get very wet, but if you stay on the trail (which I take to be the higher ground), there’s a lot of wonderful wildlife to see. You can also see my field reports and my location guide for more information.
Cooper’s Hawk at Marl Bed Flats
Directions:[Map]From FL-417, take exit 49 toward Lake Mary Blvd. Continue down the ramp until you get to Ronald Reagan Blvd, then go Northeast on this road. Then make the second right (East) onto Lake Mary Blvd (the light is very close). From there take the next right onto S. Sanford Ave. Drive about 1/2 mile. Then, after the railroad tracks and before the highway underpass make a left onto Pine Way. Then make your 1st right onto S. Mellonville Ave and the second left onto Oak Way. Follow Oak Way all the way to the end of the street (about 1/3 mile) and you’ll find the Marl Bedflats parking lot. You’ll see three gates there. I park between the first and second (the second is usually locked to keep vandals from driving through the flats).