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Paynes Prairie Preserve

4801 Camp Ranch Road

Payne's Prairie Preserve

Home to wild bison, horses, alligators, snakes, and over 270 species of birds, this vast prairie in Central Florida with access points in Gainesville and Micanopy is a little-known state treasure. One of the most interesting and accessible places to go for an interpretive walk within the preserve is the elevated boardwalk called the La Chua Trail in Gainesville. The pathway takes you above the Alachua Sink, a sinkhole that's essentially the prairie's drainage system. When it's filled with water, it's a major gathering ground for alligators. You can often spot scores if not hundreds of the reptiles here. And at the end of the boardwalk, where it peters out into a dirt trail that follows a canal, you'll sometimes even see alligators sprawled out across the path. By then, of course, it's time to turn around.