A Guide to Marl Bed Flats
The trail map claims there are two trail loops. One with red blazes (0.8 miles) and one with yellow blazes (0.5). I'll take them at their word, and I have seen trail blazes in the wooded areas, but in reality, once you get out of the wooded hammock the trail becomes irrelevant. Just walk where you're most likely to stay dry and where you're least likely to step on cow dung. The more grassy areas can become very muddy and messy, and since we share the area with cattle, you have to watch where you step. Now whenever I visit I wear my wading boots. It saves a lot of muddy clothes! The most interesting portion of the flats is near the slough. You can get there pretty easily if you always stay to the left. That is, once you enter the trail, you'll be forced to make a right hand turn, then at every fork in the trail stay to the left. You'll eventually make it out to the flats and see a large wet area to your left. This is the area where I've seen the most wildlife.
|Black-necked Stilts Breed along the Slough|
Once you get out of the hammock, you can see Lake Jesup in the distance. I've walked to the shore a few times, but there isn't always need; you can see a fair amount of wildlife without venturing that far. All the normal herons and egrets are here, including Roseate Spoonbills, and I often see ducks flying over as well: Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are common here in the summer, and Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Ducks, Blue-winged Teal and other ducks can be seen here in the cooler months. Osprey and Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks are here year round, as are Bald Eagles (though they are not as common here in the summer). During the fall and winter, look for American Pipit, Northern Harrier, American Kestrels, and Merlins. The parking lot can be a good place for warblers, especially during spring and fall migration. And in May, you might check here for Bobolinks as well.
|Krider's Red-tailed Hawk|
|Semipalmated Plovers are sometimes found in Spring Migration here|
|Semipalmated Sandpipers Migrate through Marl Bed Flats|
|Stilt Sandpiper and Greater Yellowlegs|
|Solitary Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs|
|Le Conte's Sparrow|
I'm not very good at identifying plants and flowers. I need to get out there for the Swamp Sunflower bloom next year. But at different times of the year, especially in the summer months, there are sill some pretty flowers blooming.
|Water Hyacinth, an Invasive Species|
There's really nothing here by way of accommodations. When you arrive, you'll see two fences. One stays locked all the time, and the other is usually open. You can park in that small area (it has just enough room to park and turn around). There are no restrooms, no nature center, very poorly marked trails (outside of the wooded hammock). Especially in warmer months, make sure to bring bug spray and a hat. I always wear long pants here as well, mostly out of respect for the possibility that there may be snakes in the area.
|Marl Bed Flats|