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Caracara Prairie Preserve

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Address/Location:  3980 CR 850 (Corkscrew Road), Immokalee, FL 34142.  Access to the public hiking trails is through the CREW Cypress Dome Trailhead. The preserve parking area is a 15 minute drive east from Exit 123/Corkscrew Road on I-75.

 DB Caracara
Caracara Prairie Preserve is named for the federally-threatened crested caracara which nest and forage within the preserve and surrounding agricultural and conservation lands.  

Manager Contact Information
Preserve Manager: Molly DuVall
E-mail:  Molly.DuVall@colliercountyfl.gov
Phone: 239-252-2960

Preserve Size: 367.7 acres

Date Acquired: December 17, 2007

Cost of Acquisition: $5,032,000.  The preserve was acquired in partnership with the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) Trust, who contributed $300,000 towards the purchase price. 

Public Access Status:  The Caracara Prairie Preserve is open to the public from dawn till dusk. Visitors to the Caracara Prairie Preserve will park at the CREW Cypress Dome Trails and access the preserve trailhead via the 1 mile hike from the parking area. The Caracara Prairie Preserve “red” public hiking trail connects with the adjoining CREW Cypress Dome Trails approximately 1 mile from the CREW Cypress Dome Trails parking area off of Corkscrew Road.  Recreational hunting opportunities are available at Caracara Prairie Preserve and managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) CREW Wildlife Environmental Area (CREW WEA). Dogs are not permitted at the preserve for the safety of the cattle and nesting wildlife.

Reason for Acquisition: This preserve was acquired to protect the existing native habitat, to provide surficial aquifer storage, to provide habitat for protected birds and mammals, to buffer and protect adjoining state-owned conservation lands, and to provide opportunities for at-cost restoration as a mitigation for County projects, in order to save taxpayers money.

Management goals:  These include protection and restoration (as appropriate) of the native habitats on site, monitoring management actions as they affect the Florida panther, gopher tortoises, native vegetation and other wildlife, and providing appropriate nature-based recreation and educational opportunities for citizens and visitors.

Hunting:  The preserve is part of the CREW Wildlife and Environmental Area (WEA) and will be regulated by FWC.  Please go to http://myfwc.com/viewing/recreation/wmas/cooperative/crew or http://myfwc.org/hunting/wma-brochures/s/crew/ for more information.

 Caracara Prairie Location Map
Caracara Prairie Preserve is located off of Corkscrew Road on the boundary between Collier and Lee Counties.

Caracara Prairie Preserve Public Hiking Trails

A 2.5 mile loop takes visitors across cattle-strewn pastures, beneath shady canopies of cabbage palm forests and oak hammocks, along sweeping views of freshwater marshes dotted with wildflowers and the occasional white-tailed deer, and through fire-dependent pine flatwoods. The Caracara Prairie Preserve hiking trail is known as the red-loop and features a number of easy-to-use kissing gates throughout to help hikers enjoy the property with cattle fencing in place.

Trail maps are available on-site at the parking area kiosk.

 

Click here for an interactive trail map through Google Maps: Interactive Trail Map

 Trail Map
Trail Map (click here to download

         

The Collier County Caracara Prairie Preserve hiking trails are contiguous with the CREW Cypress Dome hiking trails. Visitors to the preserve will park at the CREW Cypress Dome Trailhead parking lot and hike one-mile along the green trail to reach the trailhead of the Caracara Prairie Preserve red trail.

The Caracara Prairie Preserve hiking trail can be seasonally wet depending on recent rains. For updated trail conditions, please check the CREW Land and Water Trust Website:

Current Trail ConditionsCrew Cypress Dome Trails
Click here to download trail map

 

 Cwo

Caracara Prairie Preserve managers utilize cattle grazing on the property for land management. Cattle grazing helps to maintain the pasture and grassland habitats within the preserve to support a diversity of species like Florida sandhill crane, crested caracara, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, wildflowers and more!

Cattle can often be observed in areas around the hiking trails. It is always good practice to observe them from a respectful distance and make noise to let them know you are approaching.

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The freshwater marshes that dot the landscape support a diversity of frog species, wading birds, Florida sandhill cranes and more! 

Caracara Prairie Preserve

The shady oak hammocks along the trails are frequented by Florida black bear, wild hog, grey squirrel, and turkey.

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Public Access Facilities:  No restroom facilities are planned. Port-O-Potty's are available at the CREW Cypress Dome Trails parking area. No water fountains are available on site.

Plants and Wildlife:  Native vegetation communities within the preserve are shown below.   Undeveloped before the 1950s, the property was historically composed of pine flatwoods dotted with freshwater marshes.  From the 1950s through the 1970s, portions of the property were cleared and  used for agriculture.  Furrows used in row crop cultivation can still be seen within cleared areas.  Pasture lands since the 1970s, the open prairies still have cattle grazing there to provide an interim management tool until they can be restored.  Because they are extensive, the prairies also  provide long-range scenic views.  The preserve is located within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Panther Focus Area with 2/3 of the preserve in the Primary Zone and 1/3 within the Secondary Zone, both critical habitat for the endangered Florida panther.

 Caracara Prairie Preserve3

 DB egrets

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Caracara Prairie Preserve contains  three distinct native vegetation communities:

  • Prairie (currently improved pasture lands),
  • Depressional marsh wetlands, and
  • Mesic pine flatwoods

The dominant vegetation type on the preserve is prairie/pasture. Formerly agricultural fields, pastures have been improved with bahia grass for cattle foraging but they also contain many native grasses and forbs.  In addition to cattle,  pastures provide habitat for native Florida wildlife species  including the sandhill  crane
and crested caracara, both protected bird  species.  Gopher tortoises, also protected, live in dryer portions of the prairie.

Depressional marshes  are the second most extensive vegetation community at the preserve. These circular wetlands dot the landscape and can be easily identified on the aerial map above.   They are dominated by wetland plants and  are flooded for most of the year.  Native plants growing within the marshes include maidencane, pickerelweed, sedges, and marsh pennywort.

Marshes provide water and foraging habitat for wildlife year-round, except in times of severest drought. Many wetland-dependent bird species depend on them to survive, including protected species like the woodstork, limpkin, and snowy egret, all documented on the preserve. Alligators are also commonly found within the marshes.

Mesic pine flatwoods cover the remainder of the preserve and are mainly composed of slash pine but also include cabbage palm, saw palmetto, oak, wax myrtle, broomsedge, grasses and forbs. 

Flatwoods provide habitat for the endangered Florida panther and it's primary prey species, white tailed deer.  Also present are the Florida black bear and invasive wild hogs.  At left you can see the exotic plant removal work that has been done to restore the habitat.

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