Where to Explore Wildlife in Clay County

Barred Owl flying through trees

As home to three sites along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, there’s no shortage of wildlife sightings right here in Clay County. The area serves as home to a vast birding population, a thriving fishing community and numerous types of wildlife within the conservation areas throughout the community.

Here’s a look at where you can observe wildlife during your visit to Clay County, Florida –

Bayard Conservation Area

woman on horse riding through Bayard Conservation Area
Equestrian Trails in Bayard Conservation Area- Clay County, FL.

Located just south of Green Cove Springs, the Bayard Conservation Area features 10,371 acres of conservation land with seven miles of river frontage along the St. Johns River. A variety of wildlife calls the area home including gopher tortoise, bald eagle, little blue heron, deer and turkey.

Fifteen miles of trails can be explored through the John P. Hall Nature Preserve within the conservation area. In addition to hiking tails, visitors can explore equestrian trails, bank fishing, bird watching and take advantage of primitive launch sites for canoes and kayaking.

Camp Chowenwaw

Family exploring in Camp Chowenwaw

Dating back to 1933, Green Cove Springs’ Camp Chowenwaw County Park was once Florida’s first Girl Scout Camp. Today, the public park offers 150 acres, a swimming pool and numerous trails for exploring and pristine conditions for overnight camping too. From one of the many onsite cabins to a night in one of the nine treehouses that sleep four people, families can sleep under the stars at this historic campground.

Go for a hike on the Jungle Trail, make your way to the observation deck on Black Creek and explore the new Pawpaw Nature Center to learn about the animals and habitats that make up Clay County. At the nearby pollinator garden, visitors can learn how to attract and support butterflies and other pollinators at home. Open on the third Saturday of each month, the Camp Chowenwaw Park History Museum tells the stories and history of the Girl Scouts that once used this same property.

Jennings State Forest

Tree line in Jennings State Forest

At nearly 24,000 acres, Jennings State Forest located just outside of Oakleaf is home to 15 different biological communities including sandhill, slope forest, flatwoods, seepage slope, dome swamp, blackwater stream and seepage stream.

The forest is open daily during daylight hours for visitors interested in hiking, bicycling, canoeing and horseback riding throughout the land. There are three hiking trails ranging from 1.7 miles to 5-mile loops taking visitors along area waterways and primitive areas in the forest. Overnight camping and primitive campsites are available at the Hammock Campground.

Mike Roess Gold Head State Park

Creek Run at Ravines in Gold Head Branch State Park

Known as one of Florida’s First State Parks, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park in Keystone Heights is home to 2,000 acres with 5.44 miles of trails along the Florida National Scenic Trail. The Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) passes through 5.4 miles of the park and connects to other public lands.

Go fishing or go for a swim in Little Lake Johnson and if you’d like to explore the area by water, canoe rentals are available too. As a full-facility campground with 73 camp sites, overnight accommodations are available for RVs, tents and cabin rentals.

Get ready to create your own adventures among the wildlife when you visit Clay County. Explore the natural wonders that call the area home and take advantage of the outdoor opportunities during your stay. From RV camping to sleeping under the stars, learn more about planning your next visit to Clay County at www.ExploreClay.com.

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