Saturday, July 18, 2015

Hiking Lake Jesup Wilderness Area

Lake Jesup Wilderness Area TrailheadWith the water levels relatively low, this is a good time of year to explore this area.  We didn’t come across any flooding on the trails at all, though I suspect that a good portion of these trails are underwater in the late winter/early spring.Trail flooded

The marked trail has two balloon loops – a red loop on the south end, and a yellow loop on the north end.  According to the trail head, this is supposed to be about 2.5 miles, but my gps said it was actually about 4.1 miles.  The trail starts out at Lake Jesup Park, with parking near the boat ramp.  A short walk through the park to the east leads to the trailhead.

Hibiscus 3The main trail heads east from the trailhead (past the permanent “trail flooded sign) with a lot of swamp pink hibiscus growing between the trail and the lake.  These plants are at least six feet high, and along with all of the other plants, they completely block the view of the lake in this area.  (Throughout most of the hike, we saw a lot of pink hibiscus in bloom on either side of the trail).

Bridge over creekThis part of the trail continues for about 1/3 of a mile and leads to a bridge and a split in the trail with the red balloon loop going to the right and the yellow balloon loop going to the left.  We started by heading south along the red marked trail.

LJ Trailview 3The trail heads south along the top of a berm that is well shaded by palm trees nearly all the way to the loop.  There are a couple of spots where the berm ends as the trail crosses a wash that lets the flood waters flow to the other side of the path.Andy at edge of clearing

Along the way towards the southern loop, there are a couple of spots where the lake can be seen, as well as more hibiscus plants.  At one point on this part of the trail was a sign describing the wild birds that can be seen in the area, but it looks like it spends a good portion of time underwater; it was not very easy to read.  The breezes on this part of the trail were perfect.  Blowing off the waters of Lake Jesup, kept the heat and the bugs at bay.

Resurrection ferns on twisted oak 2Going into the loop portion of the trail, the trees are thicker, so the breeze doesn’t get through as much, but it is a very nice part of the trail to explore.  There are several benches from the Eagle Scouts along the way for a short rest or to sit quietly and wait for animals to come out of hiding.

Cautious box turtleWhile we didn’t see a lot of wildlife on this trip (this guy watching us cautiously was the only visitor we had except for birds), I did see a lot of deer tracks, raccoon tracks and what looked like boar prints.

Start of yellow loopFrom here we headed back to the yellow balloon trail; the trail leading up to the yellow loop is also along the top of a shaded berm with a little standing water on the west side still around from the recent rains. 

This loop also has several benches from the local Eagle Scout projects, but one interesting man-made artifact is the trail marker on one of the trees – the tree has died and is decomposing while still standing, but the trail marker is still holding on. Red dragonfly

This is a nice spot to visit, but remember that the dry season is the best time… when the water levels rise again, most of this area will be under water.  If you would like to see the technical details, where each of the photos were taken, or download a gpx file, just click on the “Trip details” link below the map.


Park Entrance Lake Jesup Park LJ Trailview 1
LJ Trailview 2 Hibiscus 1Hibiscus 2 LJ Trailmarker
Lake view from trail Sign 1 Field of Hibiscus
Trail continues in the shade LJ Trailview 4Palm fibers 2 Tina between berms
Hibiscus between palms Cross to next berm Beginning of red loop
Washes are dry this time of year Resurrection ferns on twisted oak Benches along the trail
Tina near bench Eagle scout bench tag Jungle view
Horsenettle berries LJ Trailview 5 Tina on bench
Sign 2 LJ Trailview 6 Palm fibers
Bridge over creek 2 LJ Trailview 7 Strange fungus under branchesStrange fungus under branches 2
Decomposing tree holding trail markerDecomposing tree holding trail marker-side view Second bench on yellow loop Spiders sharing a web
Andy on bridge Andy on bridge 2 View towards lake

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