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Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge

Posted on Monday, April 13, 2015 at 10:21 am

By William Hobson

            lakewoodruffLake Woodruff is a place that brings people together to enjoy all the best of what nature offers in Florida.  So it was on a pleasant day last year that 12 of us were given a special tour by National Park Service staff of one of the 29 national wildlife refuges in Florida. Like Florida, our group was quite different in terms of age, natives and snowbirds, ethnic background, and novice and seasoned bird watchers and nature lovers.

For nearly two hours our group was mesmerized by the mottled ducks, egrets, great blue herons, alligators, and limpkins that we were able to view and photograph.  It was particularly exciting to see a swallow-tailed kite since Lake Woodruff has the second largest roosting colony in the Southeast for swallow-tailed kites that migrate 5,000 miles annually to Brazil.

Located 25 miles from the popular tourist destination of Daytona Beach and approximately 45 miles northeast of the Orlando Metropolitan area, the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge is a hidden gem in Central Florida.  The Refuge encompasses 21, 574 acres of land and water along the St. Johns River. Home to over 200 species of birds, 40 mammalian species, 58 species of reptiles, 33 species of amphibians, and 68 species of fish, the spectacular natural resources and unique cultural history of the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge make this hidden wonder a very special place.

While Native American mounds and artifacts found within the Refuge date back 10,000 years, Major Joseph Woodruff purchased the land known as DeLeon Springs in 1823 and gave his name to the large, freshwater lake nearby. In 1964, the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge was initially established when 18,500 acres in Volusia and Lake Counties was set aside to provide habitat for migratory birds. Presently, the Refuge includes 11,100 acres of freshwater marsh, 7,200 acres of hardwood swamp, and 2,400 acres of upland habitat. The rich biodiversity of the area and the recreational opportunities available to the public ensure remarkable experiences for the over 50,000 people who visit the refuge annually.

Birding and nature photography are popular activities at the Refuge. Over half the migratory birds that travel to the area are different species of ducks. Birders may also view ospreys, different species of limpkins, egrets, herons and many others. The Refuge also serves as a habitat for the Florida Black Bear, otters, foxes, and bobcats. Manatees can be spotted in the Refuge in May and June. Guided bird walks are offered to the public during the winter months, and the Refuge is included as part of Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count.

Visitors have other recreational options. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent in nearby DeLeon Springs, and fishing is permitted for individuals with a fishing license. Limited hunting is also permitted. Hunters must use archery or primitive guns and only deer and hogs can be removed from the property. The Refuge affords the public a myriad of opportunities to appreciate natural ecosystems and to respectfully recreate in the natural world.

Since 1999, an organization called Friends of Lake Woodruff NWR have helped to build and maintain trails, provide educational programs, and assist in research. It is easy to see why this group has been call “Friends” as this is a bit how I felt with the strangers with whom I had shared the field trip last year.  Maybe more field trips to places like Lake Woodruff are the ticket to making Florida a friendly and happy place.

William Hobson is the Secretary for the West Volusia Audubon Society and teaches Earth/Space Science at Pine Ridge High School in Deltona.  For more information about AUDUBON FLORIDA and its “Special Places” program visit  All rights reserved by Florida Audubon Society, Inc.