Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hiking the Fence Trail to the National Fish Hatchery remains

Beginning of trail-2Our last hike during our trip to Florida Caverns State Park was one of the most memorable of the week.  We started out from Blue Hole Spring where the trail enters the woods by some horse stables, and continues south. 

Trail view-4We only made it about two tenths of a mile before we realized that we dropped a hat along the way and had to turn back.  Luckily it was easy to find, and we were quickly back on our way.  The first part of this mulit-use trail leads due south along the fence marking the western border of the park; it’s a wide path and well suited for horses.  It is dry and well shaded, and there was a cool breeze blowing on this day.

Road to staff residence-2There really isn’t much to see on this leg of the trail until it turns to the east and then heads south again by the staff residence.  I could see the house from the trail, and it looked interesting enough to get a little closer look.  It appears to be made of the same coquina blocks as the short walls and columns at the entrance; I suspect that it has some historical significance, but right now it appears to be someone’s home, so I didn’t want to dally too long.

Feathery plants-3From here the trail continues to the south, still along the fence line.  There was a flowering plant growing on the fence that we have never seen… I believe it is called a “leather flower”; it has seeds on it that look almost like feathers.  We also saw some deer along this part of the trail off in the woods, but it scampered away too quickly for a photo.

Turn around point-1The trail continues to the south for what seems like a long time (long straight trails always seem a lot longer than they really are), but about the time we were beginning to wonder if the length of the trail that we read on the map was the distance one-way, we could see a mailbox up ahead indicating that the trail had to turn before that spot.  It came into sight just in time, because we were both starting to think this hike was going to be one of the less interesting ones.

Tree with mushrooms-1Where the trail makes a U-turn into the woods, the scenery was a lot more interesting.  Fallen trees with mushrooms made for some interesting photos, and Red Columbine growing in the marshy areas added a bit of color.  We also found a bench in this section of the trail with a hitching post to tie up a horse.

Black Eyed Susans-1We continued to follow the trail back up to the small wall bordering the staff residence.  This is a great spot to sit down and take a little break on the trail and enjoy the view of the Black Eyed Susan flowers.National Fish Hatchery Information Kiosk-1

The main part of the trail here loops back to retrace the steps that we took down, but we decided to follow the service road straight to the north from here.  I was glad we did.  This part of the trip reminded me about one of the things that I like about hiking – you never know what you will see, and sometimes it is a nice surprise.

I noticed a clearing off to the east and went to take a quick look, and while I was there I saw a sign – at first I thought it was blank, but when I saw the other side, I called Tina over to take a look.  The sign describes the area that we were in as a National Fish Hatchery that was in use from 1938 to 1942.

With the map at the top of the sign we could see that the staff residence was likely the same residence used by the people who ran the hatchery (it is probably being restored).  It also showed the location of the old pump house, so we decided to look around some more.

Old fish hatchery ponds-2

Some of the ponds used by the fish hatchery have had all of the growth cleared from them.

Old sluice gate-2

The first thing we saw was a couple of old sluice gates between the forest and the hatchery ponds, so we climbed up the berm towards to woods and saw the remains of the old pump house.

Old pump house-3

Heading towards the river from the pump house was a channel that flowed the water in from the river.

Channel to old pump house-1

And the remains of an old dam in the river…

Dam remains-2

Upstream from the dam was the remains of some sort of wooden structure that was in the middle of the river.

Old decayed river structure-1

This area of the park hasn’t yet made it to the maps (at least the ones that I saw), so I suspect that they are in the process of restoring the area for visitors in the future.  Sometimes sites like this are a lot more interesting before they are fully restored for public viewing, so I’m glad we found it.

You never really know what can be found out on the trails, so when in doubt remind yourself that one of the reasons you’re out exploring nature is to see things that you might not see anywhere else.  If you would like to see the technical details of this trip, download a .gpx file, or simply see where the photos were taken, you can click on the “Trip details” like at the bottom of the map below the rest of the photos.

More Photos

Horse stables-1 Picnic area near trail start Road to staff residences-1
Staff residence Feathery plants-1 Tree with mushrooms-6
Red Columbine-2Red Columbine-1 Cypress knees-1 Black Eyed Susans-2Old pump house-4
Another old sluice gate-3 Old pump house-2 Old decayed river structure-2
Dam remains-1 Dam remains-3 Channel to old pump house-2
Old channel from river Old fish hatchery ponds-1 Hatchery residence

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