LOWER SUWANNEE RIVER NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Lower Suwannee River
The north side of this 53,000-acre national wildlife refuge lies in Dixie County and has four recommended stops for birding and wildlife viewing. The first is Shired Island Beach, where trails lead you through coastal hammocks, past mudflats and open beach. Anything from wintering shorebirds to songbird migrants making landfall in spring may turn up here. Dixie Mainline is a 9-mile, unpaved road through pine flatwoods, bottomland hardwoods and marsh. Drive, bike or walk this road for a spectacular outing; this is an interesting stop for herons, egrets, shorebirds, raptors, wrens and fall warblers. Butterfly diversity is also quite good along this stretch of road; a spring outing may produce large numbers of Phaon Crescent, Little/Viola’s Wood-Satyr and Spicebush Swallowtail. Sweadner’s Juniper Hairstreak, a Florida endemic, occurs here (two broods, mainly spring and fall); watch for this beautifully-patterned, olive-green member of the “gossamer-wing” family among stands of Southern Red Cedars (its host plant) and nearby flowers. Sleepy Orange, Northern Cloudywing and Least Skipper are also possible. Fishbone Creek, accessed from CR 357, has an observation platform with a vantage of salt marsh, plus a small boat launch on the creek. Explore the Fishbone Creek Paddling Trail (best for experienced paddlers) at this stop, where you may encounter Great Egret, Belted Kingfisher, Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin, Black Mullet and Diamondback Terrapin amongst the cordgrass, needlerush, oyster bars and open waters. Salt Creek has an ADA-accessible boardwalk to the salt marsh where Bald Eagles frequently nest. There’s always something to see at the Suwannee River National Wildlife Refuge year-round, but be prepared for biting insects in warm weather.