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Mallory Swamp - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Other Florida

In Lafayette County, Northern Florida, lies the recently restored natural beauty of Mallory Swamp.

Once owned by Richard W Sears, co-founder of Sears Roebuck & Co. , and president of the Standard Lumber Company, the land belonged to a succession of timber companies and in the latter part of the 20th century industrial landowners attempted to convert the swamp to pine plantations. The building of roads and canals had an adverse affect on the natural flow of water and the water table levels with dramatic consequences. In 2001 a combination of a dry swamp and severe lightening combined to produce one of the largest wildfires in Florida’s history. Fire swept through the swamp and destroyed much of the areas cypress wetland forests, peat bogs and commercial timber. After burning 400 acres, the fire was thought to have been to be extinguished, but later rekindled itself and the swamp caught fire again, eventually burning 60, 000 acres. Smoke was seen as far away as Tampa and even from a space satellite.

In April 2002 the Suwannee River Water Management District purchased almost 30, 000 acres with the intention of returning the wetlands to their former natural beauty, in order to provide water storage, the reduction of wildfire and the restoration of wildlife habitats. In a programme lasting several years the Water District filled in man made ditches and installed culverts under roads in order to re-establish the natural flow of surface water, and introduced drainage controls to regulate the how much water could drain out of certain areas. They also introduced a planned programme of chopping and controlled burning in order to reduce the chance of destructive wildfires while continuing the natural process of controlling the expansion of trees and shrubs, and promoting the growth of grasses and herbs.

The swamp now contains almost a hundred miles of grassy roads and trails and has become a haven for fishing, biking, hiking and horseback riding. Travelling through the swamp you are likely to see such natural inhabitants as wood storks, turkeys, hogs, white tailed deer and Florida’s seemingly ever present great blue herons.

The District has also designated thirty-eight miles of trails for public All Terrain Vehicle use. These trails are generally open from early April until mid September, being closed for the duration of the hunting season.

The designated entrance to Mallory Swamp lies south of Mayo (US27) via CR 355 (known as Pine Street) and then CR 360. For more information ring 800-226-1066 (FL only) or 386-362-1001

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