Caravelle Ranch Wildlife Management Area expands for conservation and recreation

Man standing next to a large tree
Man standing next to a large tree

During a recent survey in Caravelle Ranch, District staff found a giant cypress tree with a diameter of 84 inches. When growing in deepwater swamps, cypress trees grow an average of 0.17 mm/year, making this tree approximately 1,200 years old.

PALATKA, Fla., Oct. 10, 2023 — Caravelle Ranch Wildlife Management Area (CRWMA) in Putnam County is expanding, further enhancing its role in preserving natural habitats and providing recreational opportunities. The purchase, which was approved by the St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board, adds to the already vast network of public conversation lands between the Ocklawaha and St. Johns rivers.

Nearly 28,000 acres, the CRWMA is managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and encompasses approximately 5,180 acres of state-owned property, 6,573 acres held by the District, and 16,027 acres leased from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Division of Recreation and Parks’ Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT) for cooperative management.

This recent expansion not only bolsters floodplain, watershed and water quality protection for the Ocklawaha and St. Johns rivers, but also provides critical habitat for a diverse range of native wildlife species. Visitors can partake in a variety of outdoor activities, including hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, hiking, horseback riding and bicycling.

Among the wildlife that call CRWMA home are imperiled species such as the Florida black bear, gopher tortoise and Florida sandhill crane. The management of CRWMA is tailored to safeguard these important native species and their habitats.

The District’s Real Estate Services Program recently received a land acquisition application from Lola’s Retreat, LLC, offering to sell the District a portion of a parcel totaling 10.6 acres within CRWMA. Situated along the Ocklawaha River and connected to the Caravelle Ranch Wildlife Management Area on three sides, this property comprises freshwater forested wetlands, further helping to protect water resources.

The expansion of CRWMA reaffirms the commitment of all stakeholders involved in the conservation and sustainable management of Florida’s natural resources and their commitment to provide the public with valuable outdoor recreational opportunities.