October 2013: Hal Scott Regional Preserve and Park

Wedgefield, Florida

Timucuan Indian mounds give evidence of human habitation here going back thousands of years. Early settlers knew this place as Curry Ford where you could cross the Econlockhatchee River when traveling between Central Florida and the Atlantic coast. After the Cheney Highway was constructed in 1924 the traffic disappeared and the cattle moved in to graze on lands that had been timbered and turpentined. Land acquisition for conservation and flood control began here in 1992 and today more than 9,000 acres are owned and managed by the St. Johns River Water Management District and Orange County. 

The majority of your dog’s hiking day at Hal Scott Preserve will be in sparse pine flatwoods and open prairie where shade is just a rumor so come prepared. The saw palmetto understory is desert-like so views will be long, even for short trail dogs. The vast grasslands are studded with wildflowers poking out as you move along the road-trails of the 4.3-mile White Loop where the elevation rarely deviates from between 60-65 feet. Multi-hour explorations will bring you to riparian wetlands and cypress domes along the Econlockhatchee River. The White Loop launches a pair of six-mile loops but unless your dog is really loving the wide open spaces you may content yourself with only a short investigation of the floodplain forest along the river by walking a short ways down the Yellow Loop.  

A total of 147 species of birds have been identified on the Hal Scott property but the diva is the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker that lives mainly in open fields of mature longleaf pine. A cockade is a ribbon or ornament worn on a hat. The woodpeckers’ cockade is a tiny red line line on the side of the black-and-white males. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a cooperative breeder, living in small groups and foraging as a family, moving together from tree to tree. The extra birds usually are sons from previous breeding seasons; daughters only rarely stay with their parents. In the Preserve longleaf pines with white stripes around their trunks indicate the trees that have Red-cockaded Woodpecker cavities drilled into them.

From SR 520, turn west into the Wedgefield subdivision on Macon Parkway. Turn left on Bancroft Boulevard, right on Meredith Parkway, and left on Dallas Boulevard to the entrance on the right. From Orlando, there is an exit for Dallas Boulevard off the BeeLine Expressway (Route 528) east-bound only.