Fields and prairies don't often come to mind when you think of Florida - but despite what we think, they're not only exclusive to the west coast. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park has wild horses and bison that roam the open Florida prairie.
When it comes to experiencing nature, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in Micanopy Florida is king. This state park features so many different ways to experience wildlife, and not just alligators and turtles either.
You can see wild horse and bison scattered throughout the vast 16,000 acres of Florida prairie here. As you walk the boardwalk they can be seen out grazing in the marshes, enjoying Florida's Sun. It's almost like Florida's own little slice of the wild west.
You're probably wondering why horses can be found here and nowhere else - we were curious too, after all - they're not something you see every day in Florida.
Heather Goston, a park manager with Payne's Prairie, shared with Narcity that the park originally started as a Spanish Cattle Ranch back in the 1920s. In the late 70s, the park then became the first state preserve in the Florida State Park system, where 50 wild cracker horses of Spanish descent were then introduced to the land as a nod to the park's heritage.
We're glad that we get to experience these animals as they thrive in the Florida countryside. Nothing really compares to getting to see these gentle animals up close - check out a few shots of them from Paynes Prairie below.
This preserve is surprisingly diverse too, with multiple different trails that you can visit, each offering their own unique views of the Florida Landscape. One trail might lead you to fields of wildflowers and fields of golden hues, another may offer you the most spectacular water views, or you may find yourself winding through the pine trails of the forest like Pocahontas.
No matter which trail you go with, this place is every nature and animal lover's dream.
PAYNES PRAIRIE PRESERVE STATE PARK
Location: 100 Savannah Blvd. Micanopy FL 32667
Hours: 8 am until sundown, 365 days a year
Cost: Main Entrance Admission-$6 per vehicle (2-8 people per vehicle), $4 Single Occupant Vehicle, $2 for pedestrians bicyclists.
LaChua Trail Admission - $4/vehicle.
Bolen Bluff Admission - $2 per vehicle, limit 8 people.
Full-Facility Camping - $18 per night, plus tax, plus a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. Includes water and electricity. 50% discount offered for seniors over 65 and government employees.
Primitive Camping (hike-in only) - $5/person per night.
Why you need to go: The only place where Floridians can experience roaming wild horses, bison, and stunning water views on a regular basis. An affordable and great place for camping and adventures through Florida's landscape, as well as hiking, biking, and wildlife viewing.
We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit a potentially hazardous location, you check for the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. If you do plan to visit a location, respect the environment.