A university campus is not where I would normally look to photography wildlife in their natural habitat but the University of North Florida boasts one of the most comprehensive ecosystems in our area.
I spent a couple of hours hiking the five well-marked trails in this 500 acre wilderness area search of fauna and flora and was not disappointed.
There are several different ecosystems within the sanctuary to explore and all of them all are very easy walk. The Gopher Tortoise Ridge trail is an upland ecosystem featuring turkey-oaks that can be identified by their leaves that are shaped like turkey toes.
One of my favorite trails is actually the Red Maple Boardwalk that winds along a freshwater swamp and boarders Lake Oneida and that’s where I encountered a small raccoon staring at me from a tree just a few feet away. Its many interpretive signs help you identify different trees and plants.
Pondering the tranquil reflections of the wooden bridge that connects to Native Heart Island, it’s easy to believe that you’ve definitely entered a world of higher learning.