Description - **Note: This information was provided by www.floridastateparks.org.
This site preserves open grassy forests of longleaf pine that were once commonplace throughout Florida. The pine flatwoods form a backdrop for other biological communities, including cypress domes, scrubby flatwoods, sandhills, and a beautiful strand swamp. These habitats are home to many native plants and animals, including over 50 protected species. Photographers, bird-watchers, and nature enthusiasts can explore miles of trails on foot, bicycle, or horseback. Canoeing, boating, and fishing on the St. Sebastian River are popular activities. Launching facilities are available outside the preserve at Dale Wimbrow Park and several private ramps along the St. Sebastian River, and a canoe launch north of County Road 512. The visitor center is open Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
- Primitive tent camping is available at six campsites. All sites are hike in only. Two are located on the north side of the preserve in Brevard County. Four are located on the south side of the preserve in Indian River County. Collection of firewood is prohibited. You'll need to pack in all food, water, firewood and pack out all trash. Advance reservations are required. Fees are $4 per person per night, payable by cash or check. You will need to provide vehicle tag numbers for every vehicle staying on the preserve overnight. The Preserve's entrance gates are locked at sunset and are re-opened by 8:00 a.m. A camper's combination lock is available for use in case of emergencies between sunset and 8:00 a.m. Call the Preserve office Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., on 321.953.5004 to make reservations.
A small, unmanned visitor's center is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on the northwest side of the preserve in Brevard County. Trail maps for each section of the preserve can be obtained here. Stop by to see our skull collection, an ancient mastodon bone, a red-cockaded woodpecker cavity and many other interesting items. The visitor's center is wheelchair accessible.
West Indian manatees gather in the C54 canal from November through March and can be observed at the eastern end of Buffer Preserve Drive in Brevard County. Other wildlife viewing includes birds, deer, coyote, bobcat, wild turkey, quail, eastern indigo snakes and gopher tortoises. Alligators can be seen in the St. Sebastian River and the C54 canal. If you see an alligator while on the river, please give them a wide berth and do not attempt to feed or molest them. Although rare, alligators have been known to make unprovoked attacks on pets and humans, so please keep your distance.
Guided hikes, wagon rides and scrub jay encounters run from October through May. Please call the Environmental Learning Center (772.589.5050) for tour dates, times and fees. Swamp tromps and group field trips are provided by request only. Please contact the Preserve office (321.953.5004) for more information.
Recreation - Only mountain bikes or fat-tire bikes are recommended due to wilderness trail conditions including soft sand, logs, palmetto stems and natural vegetation. Please remain on designated trails. No off-road biking is permitted due to the rare and endangered species of plants and animals being protected on the Preserve.
The preserve has 60 miles of trails about equally split between Brevard and Indian River Counties. Most of our trails are very long and are more suited for horseback riding, mountain biking and extended hikes. All visitors should bring water and sun protection. Those wanting a chance to see Florida scrub jays should park on the southwest side of the preserve (one mile west of I-95 off CR512). Endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers can be seen on the northeast side of the preserve.
The preserve maintains 60 miles of trails, with most being available for horseback riding. Trails marked with a blue hikers-only sign should not be used for riding. For additional information about facilities supporting horseback riding, please read about horse camping. At this time, there are no equestrian day use fees.
No launching of canoes or kayaks is permitted on the Preserve. However, launching is available nearby at Donald MacDonald Park or Dale Wimbrow Park (both off Roseland Road) or at the Indian River County canoe launch north of the intersection of CR512 and CR510. The county's launch site requires a two-hour paddle to reach the Preserve's canoe landing. You might plan to stop along the river and have a picnic or take a hike on the preserve before paddling on to your disembarkation point.
Fishing is permitted in lakes and ponds on the preserve and in the St. Sebastian River. The water in the St. Sebastian River is brackish which sustains both freshwater and saltwater species. Some examples of species found in the river are tarpon, snook, bass and mullet. Please make sure to abide by all State of Florida rules and regulations regarding fishing and licenses. Licenses can be obtained at most bait and tackle shops or at any county tax collector's office.
The north entrance for the visitor center and Manatee Vista is off Babcock Street (County Road 507) just north of the C-54 Canal. Exit I-95 at County Road 514 to reach County Road 507. The south entrance is off Fellsmere Road (County Road 512) 1.8 miles east of I-95.