Little Big Econ State Forest (Brumley Rd Trailhead)
Here's a map of the route I took on my second trip on March 7, 2015. I'm showing this map because it allows you to see two ways to get out to the flats and back. Since this trip, I've walked out to the St. Johns by the northern route and walked back the same way I came. If you walk out to the St Johns, expect to travel between 7 and 9 miles, depending on how much wandering you want to do at the river's edge and how high the river is. In February, the river was considerably closer than it was in June.
There's another trail that you can take north to the Econ River. I'm somewhat surprised I haven't done this yet. It's more shady and you can follow the Econ River, which may help me find more breeding birds, like Nigh-Herons, Prothonotary Warblers, and Acadian Flycatchers.
It will take about 2.5 miles (along the northern trail above) before you arrive at the Econ River and the flats leading out to the St. Johns. The flats are a great expanse, and you really need to be careful to mark where you left the trail because you could easily get lost, and by that I mean, unable to find the trail entrance to lead you back to the car. I always use my GPS app (My Tracks by Google) to keep track of where I've walked to ensure that I find my way back. The best landmark to look for, though, is a bend of the Econ River that's pretty visible while out on the flats. The trail that leads you back to the parking lot can be seen from this landmark. You'll need to keep that landmark in your mind as you walk. And once you're out on the flats, there is no shade and no opportunity to shield yourself from the sun. You'll need to prepare for this with water, sun protection and hat. During the hot summer months, you can easily become dehydrated and overheated out there. I speak from experience on that point.
If you plan to head out to Puzzle Lake, you'll need wading boots. The area can get very wet and muddy. In order to get close enough to the river to see the best birds, you'll need wading boots.
What I love about this trail is the wonderful diversity of habitats that allows you to see many different types of birds and other wildlife. Along Brumley Rd near the trailhead, you are likely to see Crested Caracara, Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Meadowlarks, and a host of other common species. Yet from the trailhead you'll shortly be walking through farmlands and a hammock of live oaks and other hardwoods. Here you're likely to hear and see warblers, vireos, cardinals, and owls. For part of this walk, you'll follow a small stream as well.
|Mostly Short-billed Dowitchers|
|Black Skimmers with Ring-billed Gull|
There's nothing here by way of accomodations. There is a sign, a fence a parking lot, and some blazes on trails. There are no restrooms, no maps, no picnic areas, and no other amenities. Once you leave the parking lot, you're on your own, save for the cows and horses you may see while you're walking. So make sure you have a GPS or map, bug spray, sun protection and water. But it's a wonderful place, and quickly it's becoming one of my favorite places to visit, especially during the cooler months, in Central Florida.