Birding at Lake Apopka North ShoreTake a wildlife drive or a loop hiking trail
Lake Apopka North Shore Birding Hotspot
The bird watching at the 20,000-acre Lake Apopka North Shore property near Orlando is ranked as one of the top three winter birding areas in Florida after Everglades National Park and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. It also is Florida’s best inland birding hotspot.
The Lake Apopka North Shore holds the birding record for the most species (174) recorded inland during the one-day Christmas Bird Count in 1998. More recently, 362 species have been counted using the area. The Audubon Society calls the annual Birdapalooza held in January on Lake Apopka’s North Shore one of the nation’s top five events in the U.S. for bird watchers.
Birds likely to be seen include anhinga, bald eagle, black vulture, double-crested cormorant, great blue heron, great egret, green heron, glossy ibis, little blue heron, osprey, red-shouldered hawk, red-winged blackbird, swallow-tailed kite, tricolored heron, turkey vulture and white ibis. Other wildlife spotted here includes alligators, turtles, otters, bobcats, coyotes and 65 species of butterflies.
Ironically, this rich habitat was once the farming area that introduced so much pollution into Lake Apopka-- the state’s third largest lake-- that it became Florida’s most polluted waterway. The restoration efforts to transform the north shore farming fields into shallow marshland to filter Lake Apopka’s nutrients created the more healthy wildlife environment. How Lake Apopka became toxic.
You have two ways to view the rich birdlife on the Lake Apopka North Shore: from a vehicle on a Wildlife Drive or by the lake’s designated north shore loop trail near the lake edge.
The one-way, 11-mile Wildlife Drive through the lake’s northeast section begins at Lust Road, 2803 Lust Road, Apopka, 32703. It ends on Jones Avenue (Map). The speed limit is 10 mph. Stopping is limited to designated pull-outs. Port-a-lets are provided at several locations but no drinkable water is available anywhere. Bring your own.
A portion of the drive intersects with a multi-use trail where drivers need to watch for hikers, bicycle riders and other users using the road. Vehicles using the road are limited to 25 feet and no towable trailers allowed.
The Lake Apopka Loop Trail covers more than 20 miles, much of it on the lake’s edge. Planned as a trail that will circumnavigate Lake Apopka one day, the loop trail currently is an out-and-back trail on the northern half of the lake. The trailheads for the Loop Trail with restrooms are the Green Mountain, North Shore/McDonald Canal boat ramp and Magnolia Park. A port-a-let is available on the trail at the historic pump house. Perhaps the easiest starting point is at Magnolia Park at 2929 South Binion Road,
The Clay Island area has 5.8 miles of multi-use white trails that include three observation towers. This is an area to look for mottled duck, black-bellied and fulvous whistling-ducks, glossy ibis and bald eagle. Shorebirds and songbirds are present in migration and winter as well as overwintering flycatchers such as western kingbird and scissor-tailed flycatcher. Overwintering waterfowl have become regular visitors. The Clay Island trailhead is located at 22526 Carolyn Lane, Astatula, 32703.