Birding Spots

The following is a list of birding spots in Lake County. The numbers next to the name of the spot goes with the number on the Bird Watching Locations Map.

1 Bourlay Historic Nature Park

A Lake County Water Authority property, the Bourlay Historic Nature Park is excellent for beginning birders as it contains several lakeside habitats where birds can be spotted readily. Both park properties are located on the shores of Lake Griffin, one on the southwest corner and the other on the southeast corner. The 83-acre southwest parcel includes a planted pine forest and the 68-acre southeast parcel consists of an old grove and planted pines with a small forested wetland area.

LOCATION: 700 N. Canal St., Leesburg (Map of location)
DIRECTIONS: From U.S. Highway 441 in Leesburg, turn north on to Canal Street and follow into park.
HOURS: Sunrise to sunset, seven days a week
CONTACT: Lake County Water Authority, 352-343-3777

2 Crooked River Preserve

Located in south Lake County, the 64-acre Crooked River Preserve 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. This Lake County Water Authority preserve is optimal for bird watchers looking for all the Florida birds attracted to water. A parking area, trailhead and trails allow for passive recreation and exploration of the remnant sandhill plant community and wetlands.

LOCATION: 11121 Lake Louisa Road, Clermont (Map of location)
DIRECTIONS: From U.S. Highway 27, turn west on Lake Louisa Road. Travel about 3 miles, park entrance is on south side of road.
HOURS: Sunrise to sunset, seven days a week
CONTACT: Lake County Water Authority, 352-343-3777

3 Dora Canal

The Dora Canal is considered one of the most beautiful waterways in the state as it has earned the nickname of “the most beautiful mile of water in the world.” A slow cruise through this inter-lake connector between lakes Dora and Eustis will allow observation of water birds, especially wood ducks and egrets. The Oklawaha Valley Audubon Society takes a group cruise every spring to see young nestlings along the shores of the lakes.

LOCATION: Most cruises leave from shores along U.S. Highway 441 in Tavares
CONTACT: Lake County Tourism & Business Relations (800) 430-LAKE

4Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area

The St. Johns Water Management District reclaimed the agricultural fields of Emeralda Marsh to improve the water quality of Lake Griffin. It is now one of the most heralded wildlife preserves in Central Florida. A waterway connecting Lakes Yale and Griffin runs west through the marsh. This waterway along with the lakes and marsh wetlands are readily accessible via road and trail to allow easy birding and other observations of nature. The 4.3-mile driving trail is unique as it allows birders to be in the middle of a wetland habitat.

LOCATION: Between state roads 42 and 44, on the east side of Lake Griffin and west of County Road 452.
DIRECTIONS: From U.S. Highway 441, turn east on to County Road 44. Turn left on to Emeralda Avenue. When road comes to a “T”, turn left and follow Emeralda Island Road.
HOURS: 24 hours, seven days a week; wildlife drive is open mid-February to May on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Drive is open to walkers and bicyclists all year.
CONTACT: St. Johns River Water Management District, (386) 329-4404

5 Flat Island Preserve

The Lake County Water Authority operates the Flat Island Preserve as it consists of two islands; Flat and Magnolia. Magnolia Island is reached by canoeing along canals, which can be provided by calling the water authority in advance. Flat Island is circum-traveled by a 3-mile trail and two cross trails. The trails meander through a hardwood hammock and along the Okahumpka Marsh shoreline. From the trail, birders can observe animals and birds of two ecosystems and discover a boardwalk that runs along one of the canals and to the canoe landing.

LOCATION: 2301 Owens Road, Leesburg (Map of location)
DIRECTIONS: From U.S. Highway 27 south of Leesburg, turn right onto County Road 25A and then right again on Owens Road.
HOURS: Sunrise to sunset, seven days a week
CONTACT: Lake County Water Authority, 352-343-3777

6 Hidden Water Preserve

The Hidden Waters Preserve of the Lake County Water Authority is 90 acres of unique and varying habitats, including differences in elevation. Two walking trails of approximately one mile in length travel through the forests and slopes down 105 feet into a natural sinkhole. The sinkhole, formerly known as the Eichelberger Sink, is about a third of a mile in diameter. It shapes Lake Alfred which drains slowly into the Florida aquifer.

LOCATION: Country Club Road, Eustis
DIRECTIONS: From the intersection of U.S. Highway 441 and State Road 19, travel east on U.S. Highway 441 and turn left on East Crooked Lake Drive.
HOURS: Sunrise to sunset, seven days a week
CONTACT: Lake County Water Authority, 352-343-3777

7 Lake Apopka Clay Island

Located on the border of Lake and Orange counties, the 19,800-acre restoration area was targeted for cleanup as Lake Apopka is in the headwaters of the Ocklawaha River. Clay Island is a small portion of the entire area and is located in Lake County. During an annual bird count in 1998, more than 170 species were seen along the 5.7-mile trail loop, the highest total for an inland species count in 100 years. Species diversity continues to trump the area as more than 270 species can be found there today.

LOCATION: Between County Road 48 and State Road 455, west of Lake Apopka.
DIRECTIONS: From County Road 48 in the Town of Astatula, travel east to Ranch Road. Take Ranch Road south and then turn west on Peoples Road. Turn south on Carolyn Road to the parking area.
HOURS: 24 hours, seven days a week
CONTACT: St. Johns River Water Management District, (386) 329-4404

8 Lake Norris Conservation Area

The Lake County Water Authority in partnership with the St. Johns River Water Management District oversees the recreation and natural resources of this property. The area was purchased to protect the extensive hardwood swamp on the western shore of Lake Norris and the Black Water Creek. More than 100 active Osprey nests have been reported in the cypress trees ringing the lake.

LOCATION: Lake Norris Road, north of County Road 44A
DIRECTIONS: From State Road 19, turn east on State Road 42, then south on State Road 439. Turn east on State Road 44A and drive 4.5 miles to Lake Norris Road. Turn north and drive 2.5 miles to the entrance on the west side of the road.
HOURS: Sunrise to sunset, seven days a week
CONTACT: Lake County Water Authority, 352-343-3777

9 Lake Louisa State Park

This park is haven for tourists looking to escape the bustle of the nearby theme parks, Lake Louisa State Park is located on the shores of Lake Louisa in the northeast corner of the Green Swamp. The lake is one of 13 in a chain of lakes connected by the Palatlakaha River. Numerous trails crisscross the 4,300-acre state park while some are designated as equestrian trails they are accessible for birding.

LOCATION: 7305 U.S. Highway 27, Clermont (Map of location)
DIRECTIONS: Located on U.S. Highway 27, 7 miles south of Highway 50
FEE: $5 per vehicle

10 Ocala National Forest (Alexander Springs)

The 380,000-acre Ocala National Forest is almost entirely in Marion County; however, Alexander Springs is located in north Lake County and is an excellent site for birding. From the coveted Florida Scrub-jay to the Bald Eagle, this site is ideal for all types of bird watchers. On the Timucuan Trail, watch for songbird migrants and waders.

LOCATION: 49525 County Road 445 (Map of location)
DIRECTIONS: From State Road 19 north of Eustis, take County Road 445 northeast five miles. Entrance will be on left hand side.
HOURS: 8 a.m. to sunset, seven days a week
FEE: $4 per person per day
CONTACT: USDA Forest Service, 352-669-3522

11 Palm Island Boardwalk

This 8-acre park is a great starter experience for beginning birders. This community park in the City of Mount Dora features picnic areas and boat ramps, but more importantly provides easy access to wetland habitats along the shorelines of Lake Dora. The 1,700-foot hiking trail and boardwalk is the best to view water birds, but the 2,000-foot Grantham Point and Lighthouse are also fun to see.

LOCATION: Located at the end of Liberty Avenue and south of Tremain Street on Lake Dora.
DIRECTIONS: From the intersection of U.S. Highway 441 and Donnelly Street in Mount Dora, travel south on Donnelly Street. Turn left on Charles Avenue and then right on Tremain Street.
HOURS: Sunrise to sunset, seven days a week
CONTACT: City of Mount Dora, 352-343-3777

12 Palatlakaha Environmental and Agricultural Reserve

Palatlakaha Environmental and Agricultural Reserve (PEAR Park) was leased by Lake County several years ago from the State of Florida and has quickly become a popular regional park for County citizens and visitors as it features the Dr. S.J. Stephany Memorial River Trail and a dog park. The 260-acre park features several habitats including some wetlands and grasslands, which makes it a great place for migratory birds.

LOCATION: Entrance at the end of University Avenue
DIRECTIONS: From the intersection of U.S. Highway 27 and County Road 48, travel south 2 miles on U.S. Highway 27 and turn right on University Avenue.
HOURS: Sunrise to sunset, seven days a week
CONTACT: Lake County, 352-253-4950

13 Sarah Maude Mason Nature Preserve

This small local nature preserve is mostly wooded with live oak, palms and shrubs. Like every place in Lake County it borders on water, so wetland and lake terrains also are part of the nature preserve located at the south end of Little Lake Harris. Birding is easy and fun along the quiet trails and boardwalk that ends with a little tower overlooking the lake.

LOCATION: Off Lakeshore Drive and Buckhill Road, Howey-in-the-Hills
DIRECTIONS: From south of Tavares on State Road 19, turn left at the traffic light intersection with County Road 48. Take a left on East Lakeview Avenue and then right on South Lakeshore Boulevard. Turn left on North Buckhill Road into preserve.
HOURS: Sunrise to sunset, seven days a week
CONTACT: Town of Howey-in-the-Hills, 352-324-2290

14 Sawgrass Island Preserve

The Lake County Water Authority’s 1,100-acre Sawgrass Island Preserve protects the largest surface water supply for Lake Yale. Many birds, including Sandhill Cranes and Ring-necked Ducks, may be observed along the six walking trails. The trails range in length from 0.6 to 2.6 miles and travel though out the mostly wooded and marshy area.

LOCATION: 12050 Sawgrass Island Road, Umatilla (Map of location)
DIRECTIONS: Travel north from Eustis of County Road 452, turn right on Em-En-El Grove Road and then left on Thomas Boat Landing Road.
HOURS: Sunrise to sunset, seven days a week
CONTACT: Lake County Water Authority, 352-343-3777

15 Scrub-Jay Trail

The Florida Scrub-Jay Trail provides an excellent birdwatching destination, with a variety of habitat ranging from sandhill/scrub to wetlands adjacent to the Trail, and several species of birds, including Florida's only endemic species, the Florida Scrub-Jay. The Florida Scrub-Jay Trail is the trailhead for a statewide, interconnected network of scrub-jay habitat, ranging from the Lake Wales Ridge to the south to Ocala National Forest to the north; from Sarasota to the west and Merritt Island and Cape Canaveral to the east. These "pockets" of scrub-jay habitat are connected by corridors of restored habitat acquired by private landowners granting conservation easements; lands purchased by land acquisition programs; and public lands available in parks and open space.

LOCATION: 11490 Monte Vista Road, Clermont (Map of location)
DIRECTIONS: Travel west from the Clermont on Highway 50, turn left on County Road 565A/Montevista Road. Travel approximately three miles to entrance on left.
HOURS: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday through Wednesday
CONTACT: Florida Scrub-Jay Trail, 352-429-5566

16 Seminole State Forest

Seminole State Forest is one of many public properties in the scenic Wekiva River Basin. Since 1990, the 25,000-acre state forest has been managed by the Florida Division of Forestry, with the goal of protecting and maintaining the native biological diversity, while integrating public use of the resources. More than 21 miles of trails are in the state forest with connections to another 20 miles on the adjacent Lower Wekiva River State Preserve.

LOCATION: Between state roads 46 and 44 near the border of Lake and Seminole counties.
DIRECTIONS: There are two entrances. The first entrance is located off of State Road 46 approximately 14 miles west of the City of Sanford. Parking areas, entrance gates and trailheads are located at the second entrance which is located west of the Wekiva River on State Road 44 in Cassia, approximately 12 miles east of the City of Eustis.
FEE: $1 per person
HOURS: Sunrise to sunset, seven days a week
CONTACT: Florida Division of Forestry, 352-360-6675

17 Trout Lake Nature Center

The Trout Lake Nature Center is a 230-acre wildlife preserve located on the north edge of the City of Eustis. The preserve protects the flora and fauna of a wetlands-forest habitat bordering on Trout Lake. The center features a 1,000-foot long boardwalk into Trout Lake, interpretive trails and a nature education center. Birding is excellent along the trail and boardwalk as they wind their way through forest and wetlands

LOCATION: 520 E. County Road 44 (Map of location)
DIRECTIONS: Entrance is one-half mile east on County Road 44 from intersection of State Road 19.
HOURS: Oct. 1 through April 30, Friday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 4 p.m.
CONTACT: Trout Lake Nature Center Inc., 352-669-2398

18 Venetian Gardens

Located on Lake Harris, the 110-acre park was developed in the 1930s. Much of the park consists of islands connected by bridges over the manmade canals. Venetian Gardens is a family park with picnic areas and the City of Leesburg’s Community Building and the Venetian Gardens Pool are located in the park. The park is excellent for viewing water birds and fowl.

LOCATION: 109 E. Dixie Ave. (Map of location)
DIRECTIONS: Entrance is off East Dixie Avenue from U.S. Highway 441.
HOURS: Sunrise to 10 p.m., seven days a week
CONTACT: City of Leesburg, 352-728-9885

19 Wekiva Springs State Park (Lower Wekiva River State Preserve and Rock Springs Run State Preserve)

Wekiwa Springs State Park comprises approximately 7,000 acres of wild scenery that offers an excellent opportunity for birders. The park is actually comprised of three parks; Wekiva Springs, Lower Wekiva River and Rock Springs; the last two are located in Lake County. The streams created by two springs form the northern and eastern park boundaries, Rock Springs Run and Wekiwa Springs Run, merge to form the Wekiva River, which flows into the St. Johns River 15 miles to the northeast.

LOCATION: Both state parks are located on State Road 46 near the Lake and Seminole counties line.
DIRECTIONS: Entrance to Rock Springs Run is located on the south of State Road 46. Lower Wekiva River entrance is across the Wekiva River on State Road 46 in Seminole County, though a second entrance is off County Road 44 in Lake County.
HOURS: 8 a.m. to sunset, seven days a week
FEE: $5 per vehicle
CONTACT: Florida Park Service, (407) 884-4311