LCWA Open Preserves
In keeping with the Water Authority’s legislative mission for “controlling and conserving freshwater resources in Lake County,” and “preserving, protecting, and improving the fish and aquatic wildlife of the county,” the Citizens Advisory Committee on Conservation recommended in 1987 that LCWA acquire sites within Lake County needing protection.
Bourlay Historic Nature Park
This 88-acre park donated by Arthur “Buddy” Bourlay III in 1999, is an important part of Leesburg’s History. This property is the site of the first steamboat landing, the first Methodist service and was previously owned by the Lee family. Visitors not only can visit a “shot-gun” style Cracker House, but also go birding and view Lake Griffin from the lakeside trails. Thanks to our Sponsors – City of Leesburg, Leesburg Regional Medical Center, Leesburg Historical Society, Ford Press, and Alee Academy.
Staff is dedicated to managing the natural resources by encouraging native species and continually controlling exotic species on the property. Prescribed fire is carefully being introduced to the property as part of the plan for re-establishing natural communities. A native garden has been established adjacent to the parking area to encourage visitors to use native plants in their landscape and to attract pollinators such as butterflies and bees.
Hiking, Exercise stations, Off-road bicycling, Birdwatching, Picnicking, and Kayaking. Please contact the Water Authority office in Tavares for more information on renting kayaks.
Crooked River Preserve
Located in the rapidly-growing south end of Lake County, this 64-acre preserve now protects a beautiful undisturbed section of waterfront on Lake Louisa, as well as frontage along the Palatlakaha River as it flows north from the lake. A parking area/trailhead and trails allow for passive recreation and exploration of the remnant sandhill plant community and wetlands.
Canoeing, Hiking, Fishing, Picnicking
Flat Island Preserve
This property safeguards an impressive and relatively undisturbed natural area consisting of marshes, hardwood swamps, and upland hardwood hammocks. The members of the Florida Trail Association have donated over 1,000 volunteer hours to construct and maintain 4 1/2 miles of foot trails that now provide public access throughout the property.
Hiking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnicking
Magnolia Island, with primitive camping and trails, is accessible only by canoes and kayaks via the canal system from the Flat Island Boardwalk. Canoe rental and camping are available; please contact the Water Authority office in Tavares for more information.
Hidden Waters Preserve
The differences in elevation on this 90 acre site, as well as the varying wet conditions and diversity of vegetation make this Preserve unique. A continuous flow of water from the seepage slope supports an unusual slope forest and depression marsh at the bottom of the sink. Due to soil and moisture conditions, the mixed forest uplands contain several species of ferns normally found in wetlands. The property is included in the state-wide birding trail network and birders have recorded over 35 species during the winter months.
Birdwatching, Hiking. Disk Golf Course. Fitness enthusiasts may also enjoy walking or running the steep trails.
Lake Norris Conservation Area
The St. Johns River Water Management District purchased this 2,228-acre property in 1996 as part of the Wekiva-Ocala Greenway Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) project. Acquisition of this site provides protection for Lake Norris’s hardwood swamp and Blackwater Creek, a major tributary of the Wekiva River. The property’s uplands provide important habitat for the threatened black bear and for species of special concern including gopher tortoises and burrowing owls. The Water Authority entered into an agreement with the District to become the lead manager for this site and provide recreational opportunities.
For your safety and the safety of others, please do not paddle south of the Lake Norris Road bridge. The creek is not passable and dangerous conditions exist in this hardwood swamp.
Hiking, Birdwatching, Fishing, Bicycling, Canoeing, Horseback riding.
Sabal Bluff Preserve
Located on the southeast shore of Lake Griffin. This 55-acre property was donated to the Water Authority by the late Arthur ‘Buddy’ Bourlay II for the enjoyment and recreation of the citizens of Lake County.
In 2005 staff and volunteers planted a 50 ft. by 50 ft. plot with wiregrass, and other native species. The plot was burned in 2006, and the wiregrass is responding very well. Because of the success of the first plot, staff and volunteers planted a 100 ft. by 100 ft. plot in 2006. Staff is waiting to see how the plot responds.
Hiking, Fishing, Picnicking, and Birding. This site is accessible for golf carts.
Sawgrass Island Preserve
This 1,137-acre site is located at the north end of Lake Yale. The major feature is a 600-acre shallow marsh. Approximately 61% of the property is comprised of forested and herbaceous wetlands (692.2 acres) with the remaining 39% consisting of uplands (444.5 acres). The upland community types found on the Preserve include unimproved pasture, shrub/brushland, mesic hammocks, xeric hammocks and pine flatwoods. Wildlife include sandhill cranes, gopher tortoises, pocket gophers, ring-neck ducks, foxes and scrub jays.
Birdwatching, Hiking, Horseback Riding.
Objectives of the Lake County Water Authority :
- Conservation of our unique and irreplaceable natural resources by protecting the lands containing such biodiversity.
- Utilization of these conservation lands for compatible public recreational activity.
Since 1989, the Water Authority has acquired over 6,300 acres for protection, either through purchase or donation. Of the 6,300 acres, approximately 71% is considered wetlands and the remaining 29% uplands support recreational opportunities.