The self-guided nature trail winds through the Crowley property from high and dry pine flatwoods, through the shady oak hammock, over the Maple Branch swamp, and out to the edge of the expansive Tatum Sawgrass Marsh along the Myakka River. The wide trails offer easy and pleasant walking conditions that are enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. Visitors are provided with a booklet for the self-guided trail that details much of the native flora and fauna that might be seen. Below are the main parts of the trail that visitors enjoy.
- PINE LEVEL TRAIL: The self-guided walk starts right outside the Welcome Center door on the Pine Level Trail. This trail is an authentic portion of the wagon trail pioneer settlers used to travel from Pine Level, then the county seat, to the coastal settlement of Braidentown (today’s Bradenton). The Pine Level Trail is a preserved piece of history within the Center, allowing visitors to walk a portion of the trail just as the pioneers once did.
- THE BOARDWALK: One of our star attractions is the 1/2 mile Boardwalk, which traverses Oak Hammock, Maple Branch Swamp and the Tatum Sawgrass Marsh. A comfortable elevated walkway, the boardwalk allows visitors to enjoy the sights and sounds of the swamp without getting their feet wet and without harming delicate life below. Benches placed at comfortable intervals allow for rest, quiet contemplation, and wildlife viewing. You will find Willow, Sweet Gum, Maple, Hickory and Ash trees here along with many varieties of ferns and flowering plants as well.
- OBSERVATION TOWER: A two story observation tower at the end of the boardwalk is a favorite spot for birders, providing a panoramic view of the marsh with the Myakka River in the distance. During the early summer, visitors can enjoy the vast stretch of blooming swamp hibiscus that fills the marsh with soft pink. In the winter months, guests often find white pelicans, roseate spoonbills and wood storks by the river. The tower points east and is a wonderful place to view sunrise and moon rise if you are camping with us. The far tree line to the southeast is Myakka River State Park. This is a great birding spot as the Red-winged Blackbirds and others enjoy the pristine environment in this area. In the spring otters will play in the creek under the tower and about halfway there on the boardwalk in last summer you can sometimes see a mother alligator and her young. Flying overhead, one can observe bald eagles, red shouldered hawks, ospreys and other birds of prey.
Note: During rainy season the boardwalk may be closed as the boards do get slick when wet.