Whenever Carole and I go camping we always like to take long drives around the areas we are targeting to seek out places not mentioned in most publication or at online sites. As we were driving around the Salt Lake Recreation Area we saw a sign for a spot called "Hopkins Prairie". So we pointed the truck down a long, unpaved sandy road and headed toward it.
What we found was a bare bones National Forest campground overlooking a wildlife sanctuary known as Hopkins Prairie. Now, in Florida, a prairie is not what the rest of us think of as such. It might look like an extensive grassland at first glance, but in actuality the Florida version of a prairie is a shallow lake. Most of the time it's a lake with spans of open water. But in times of low water or no rainfall the water can recede a bit and the grasses take over to make the shallow lake appear as a grassland. But don't try to walk across it, unless you are possessed of supernatural powers. It's still a lake.
We were impressed with the place, including the very secluded campground. It's our kind of camping spot. The day we were there, not a single person was taking advantage of the campground. It was totally empty.
We took a hike around the edges of the prairie to try to see some wildlife, but we didn't have much luck. Apparently the refuge is prime bear habitat and we heard that there are a lot of them about, but we didn't see any, nor any sign of them. We did see a lot of bird life, but it was all pretty skittish and took wing whenever we got close. I missed out on a lot of photo opportunities because the birds would not hang around when they saw me emerge from cover.
Part of the Florida Trail goes through the refuge. As we were hiking on that trail Carole saw this. What is it? she asked. After looking at it for a second I said, "I'm not sure, but if I had to guess I'd say it has something to do with bats."
Click on this stitched panorama I took of the "prairie". It's actually a lake.
When you get close to the edge of the prairie you can see that it is, in fact, a wide body of water with grasses protruding from the shallows.
The bird life there was EXTREMELY skittish around humans. Things that normally put up with us flew away at the first motion from us. I missed some really good potential shots because of their shyness. This egret took wing when it noticed us as it was hunting along the shallows. Normally they're pretty tolerant of people. Not out there on the prairie.