Marl Bed Flats is a 0.9 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Sanford, Florida that features a lake and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
Featuring one of the prettiest hammocks of ancient live oaks that youll find along Lake Jesup, the Marl Bed Flats Tract of Lake Jesup Conservation Area along the lakes north shore is a delightful place for birding. Expect bald eagles and osprey! The concentration of swamp sunflowers along the lakeshore is especially thick in late summer. The Lake Jesup trails offer a step into Seminole County marsh and a glimpse into inscrutable Florida swamp. It's an opportunity to see the unfamiliar up close, but to be weary of getting too close to the unfamiliar, including the terrain and its inhabitants. The Marl Bed Flats Tract holds one of the unique visions of Florida landscape available in Seminole County. Thick, dark woods with very creepy old oaks line the trails leading to the marsh of the Marl Bed Slough on the edge of Lake Jesup. A foot-wide horse path leads to the edge of the lake, across tall grass and through several areas of pure mud, but dry enough in late-May to navigate on foot. There are acres and acres of land to explore, with a line of palms leading to S.R. 417 toward Orlando visible far off in the distance. The entrance at the parking area of the Marl Bed Flats tract is about as uninviting as possible. It is in an unlikely spot at the end of Oakway Lane, the vegetation overgrown, the area unattractive and it gets worse the first couple hundred yards until the Red Trail (to the left) opens into the marsh area. The Yellow Trail (to the right) is a short circular path to the Red Trail. The Red and Yellow combine to cover 1.3 miles but that does not include the endless acreage of the marsh leading to the lake, which is the main attraction here. Both trails are short, circular links back to the parking lot. This area is crawling with snakes, alligators, giant tortoises, hawks and plenty of other critters, not to mention the heat, vegetation and the danger of torrential downpours. Animal and plant life are protected at the Lake Jesup Conservation Area and the Trail Guide advises to not "kill, trap or molest any mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian," which of course is vital to the success of the project. Most of the animals on the property seem acutely aware of this and take matters into their own hands. The approximately 6,000 acres of preserved land surrounding Lake Jesup is managed by the St. Johns River Water Management District and owned by the District and local municipalities. The properties were acquired for conservation purposes and as part of the Central Florida Beltway Project beginning in 1990. I
I hiked through here on a birding field trip during the Space Coast Birding festival. We went through one area of lovely moss-covered trees and then into a great open clearing. Some of the birds we saw included: Wood Stork, Anhinga, Palm Warbler, both White and Glossy Ibis, Wilson's Snipe, Limpkin, Loggerhead Shrike, a Bald Eagle, and more...