Friday, March 13, 2009

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park - Micanopy, Florida

One of the most amazing sights in Florida is the beautiful expanse of Paynes Prairie stretching off to the horizon. Located between Gainesville and Micanopy (Interstate 75 actually crosses part of the prairie), the magnificent grassland is now a state park that preserves over 21,000 acres.

Called the "Great Alachua Savannah" by William Bartram when he visited in 1774, the prairie is centered in the traditional home region of the Alachua division of the Seminole Nation. Likely named for the great Seminole leader King Payne, the prairie was the location of one of the first engagements of the Second Seminole War. Florida militia battled Seminole warriors in the Battle of Black Point along the prairie rim in 1835.

The visitor center at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park offers an excellent walk through the history of the prairie and even features a cast of the actual face of Osceola, Florida's famed Seminole warrior. The cast was prepared from a desk mask made at the time of the leader's death.

In addition, if they are lucky, visitors can sometimes catch glimpses of the herd of buffalo that roams the preserve. Florida reintroduced American Bison (buffalo) to Paynes Prairie during the late 20th century. The prairie once teemed with them, but they vanished over the last several hundred years. Paynes Prairie is also home to a small herd of wild Spanish horses.

The park is located on U.S. 441 in Micanopy, Florida and is easily accessible off I-75. For more information, please visit

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