Tosohatchee Wildlife - Janet Bellacera

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     I know...I know, your looking at the GPS coordinates above and wondering where the heck I've taken you to now.  Well, here are some directions to the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area a wonderful slice of wildlife located in Orange County, about 25 miles east of Orlando, near the community of Christmas FL.

From I-95

-  Exit onto S.R. 50 and travel west approximately 9.9 miles

-  Make a left on Taylor Creek Road

-  Entrance is 2.6 miles on the left

From  Downtown Orlando

Take the 408 east, for about 12 miles

-  Exit 23 onto S.R. 50/East Colonial Drive toward Titusville

-  Stay on S.R. 50 for approximately 12 miles

-  Pass the town of Christmas Florida

-  Make a right on Taylor Creek Road

-  Entrance is about 2.6 miles on the left

East Orlando's Hidden Gem

     The Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area is a naturist's dream with more than 30,000 acres of lush native vegetation, 19 miles of the St. Johns River, 2 fishing lakes, 60 miles of hiking trails, camping, and wildlife viewing it is the perfect way to spend a beautiful Spring day.  My husband is always looking for new places to off-road, hike or fish, and to be honest I have traveled on Hwy 50/East Colonial Drive many times, just driving right pass this area.  Who knew that such a wonderful place existed in East Orlando?

     So early on Friday morning we headed out to explore.  Upon entering, you are asked to pay the day fee and sign in.  The area is vast and remote this is the only way that the FWC can keep track of visitors.  Once that was taken care of we grabbed a map and headed out to see what we could find.                    

Information before heading out...

-  As you can see, this area unpaved.  You DO NOT need 4 wheel drive to get around.  The roads are fairly packed and flat.

-  I would advise visiting the area from October-March, as the weather is perfect for hiking and the bugs are not as bad.

-  Keep in mind that bug spray is a must no matter what time of year you visit, and to check for ticks when you get home.

-  Be sure to grab a map, I personally like the printed tri-fold better, the map is clearer and more defined.  However, it is pretty big.

-  Don't forget to sign in & out, if something were to happen, this is the only way FWC would know you are still in the park.

-  The restrooms are primitive, even though they are extremely clean and stocked, I would bring hand sanitizer and toilet paper just in case.

-  Go ahead and pack a lunch, there are picnic tables throughout the area.  My favorite are the ones by Lake Charlie.

-  Bring your binoculars, fishing pole, fishing license, camera, and sunscreen.

-  You are going to need a pretty large zoom lens.  Since the area is remote, the wildlife is pretty shy and even I had a hard time capturing them.

-  You can launch non motorized boats from both Lake Charlie and Peek-a-Boo Pond.  There is NO boat ramp so keep that in mind.    

Fishing at Lake Charlie

     Fishing at the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area can be done either on the banks of the St. Johns River or you can head over to either Peek-a-Boo Pond or Lake Charlie.  Several varities of fish can be found in any of the locations including; Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, Black Crappie and Sunfish.  The fishing platform is located on Lake Charlie and is perfect for spending the morning fishing.  In this area you will also find covered picnic table and a restroom.  This area is also nice for kids because there is a large grassy area to play on.  You are going to need a fishing license to fish here.  Keep in mind that FWC does patrol the area.  If you need a fishing license, head over to the Florida Fishing License website where you can apply right online.   

Be warned, this is a natural area and alligators do live her too, kids should never be left unattended.  Please stay away from the water's edge as gators often will be found sunbathing.  It's also common to hear them and not see them, stay away from the grasses surrounding ponds and lake as these are often nesting areas for alligators.

Hiking in Tosohatchee

     With over 60 miles of trails and miles of unpaved roads you are bound to find a special place for hiking.  This area offers a very diverse ecosystem including hiking through the freshwater marsh, forested wetlands, wet flatwoods, pine flatwoods, and various rivers and streams.  It is definitely worth a hike in each type of ecosystem just to see the different varieties of plants, flowers and animals that inhabit each area.  On our hike we hit Hodges Landing Trail which can be seen above,  and the Florida National Scenic Trail seen below.      

Here are some hiking tips...

-  This area is not as traveled as other hiking areas I have been to.  Hiking here should be for the experienced hiker.  While the trails are blazed, it is still very easy to get turned around.

-  You should know how to read a compass, trail map, and understand blaze markings.

-  Many areas of the trails are still recovering from Hurricane Irma and several trees were down making the trail slightly harder.

-  I know I have said this before but you REALLY need bug spray.

-  Always let people know where you are headed and when you anticipate coming back.

-  We carry a rucksack when we hike (well my hubby is the one that really carries it, LOL) inside you will find a first aid kit, water, toilet paper (biodegradable), maps, hand sanitizer, bug spray, snacks and a pocket knife.

-  We never set out on a hike after 5:00 p.m.

-  Never leave the trail.  Unlike other states, FL is completely flat and often times the topography looks the same no matter how long you have been hiking.  There are no natural landmarks to tell you where you are.

-  Always watch where you step.  Poison ivy is prevalent in the woods as well as all sorts of creepy crawly things.

-  Hiking boots or a sturdy all terrain sneaker is a must.

Wildflowers and Plants

     All in all, my visit to Tosohatchee was amazing.  My husband enjoyed fishing while I headed out on the search for some wildlife.  While I was not able to capture much wildlife with my camera, I did stumble upon several animals like deer, turkey, a bald eagle, a great blue heron, wood storks, great egret, hundreds of butterflies, and several species of birds like the kingfisher, cardinals, yellow warbler, blue jay, a few woodpeckers, and hawks soaring above.  The management area offers so much more...

Hunting days are posted and are limited to specific areas.  Be sure to know this ahead of time, and if you decided to go during a hunt be sure to wear brightly colored cloths.

Camping, primitive tent camping is available in a few areas throughout Tosohatchee, reservation must be made ahead of time by calling 407-568-5893

Horseback Riding, is also allowed here and a designated trial is marked on the map as well as enough parking area for both your car and horse trailer.

Have you hiked Tosohatchee?

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