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  • Sweetwater Preserve
    • Bicycling Trails Bicycling Trails
    • Nature/Hiking Trail Hiking /Nature Trail
    • Nature Study Nature/ Wildlife

    PRESERVE UPDATE - No Parking at West Trailhead, beginning Monday, October 4th at  6:00am.

    The Sweetwater Preserve - West Trailhead, located at SE 16th Ave. and Williston Rd in Gainesville, will be temporarily closed for construction improvements beginning Monday October 4th at 6:00 am.  The construction will provide official parking spaces, improved management and water quality treatment of stormwater runoff, erosion control in the Preserve, and will be integrated into a larger public trail system within the City of Gainesville.  Vehicles may not be parked on the SE 16th Ave. spur road after 6:00 am on Monday October 4th.  For visitor safety, the public is expected to observe all closure and warning signs and not enter the construction area at any time during the construction.  This project is supported by funding from Alachua County, the City of Gainesville, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to protect water quality in Sweetwater Branch, Paynes Prairie, and the Floridan Aquifer, as well as to improve public access to the preserve and trails. Pedestrians and cyclists may still access Sweetwater Preserve – West Trails via a temporary trailhead along the power line right-of-way south of the 16th Ave spur road, however there will be no parking available during the construction. 

    Visitors traveling by car may still access Sweetwater Preserve from the East Trailhead by parking at the City of Gainesville’s Boulware Springs park and walking a short distance up the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail.

    Construction is estimated to be complete in January, 2022, but updates will be provided if that date changes.  The preserve will still be opened from sunrise to sunset; visitors on the Preserve outside these hours are trespassing.  

    -----------------------------End of Notice----------------------------

    The 125 acre Sweetwater Preserve was bought in 2006 by Alachua County with funding from the Alachua County Forever Bond and a Florida Communities Trust Grant. The preserve was purchased to protect, preserve and enhance the unique natural and cultural resources found on the property and to provide an enjoyable and educational passive recreational experience. 

    Sweetwater Preserve is adjacent to Paynes Prarie Preserve State Park, and offers 3 miles of unpaved trails, served by two separate trail heads. The 1.75 mile West Trail is located at the east terminus of SE 16th avenue and meanders through hardwoods and floodplain.  The 1.2 mile East Trail is located approximately 1/3 mile north of Boulware Springs Park, along the paved Gainesville-Hawthorne Rail-Trail.  Park at Boulware Springs and access the preserve by walking north along the GHRT. The East and West trails are connected via bridge.

    Preserve Hours:

    • 8:00AM - 6:00PM November through April
    • 8:00AM - 8:00PM May through October
    Preserve Brochure:

    Sweetwater Preserve Brochure March 2020.pdf

    Preserve Rules:

    • Pack out what you pack in.
    • Trails are for pedestrians and cyclists only
    • Multi use trails are used by hikers and bikers; bikers must yield to hikers.
    • Preserve patrons may not establish new trails without permission from Alachua County.
    • Help prevent erosion by staying on the trails.
    • Leashed dogs are allowed on trails provided owners pick up after them.
    • Collecting plants, artifacts, or fossils is prohibited. No taking, harassing, or killing of wildlife without written permission from Alachua County.

    Advice For The Trails:

    • Natural areas and wildlife may be hazardous. Stay alert, stay on the established trails, and stay safe.
    • During wet weather, trails may be under water.
    • Be prepared for rough or soft trails. Some roadways are used for firebreaks and are periodically harrowed.
    • For your comfort and safety wear sunscreen and a hat, use insect repellent, and carry water.

    West Trail - Rating: Easy. This series of loop trails meander 1.75 miles along Sweetwater Branch and through upland mixed and floodplain forests. Much of this area was pasture many years ago and the native species you see have naturally recruited into the area.
    Sandy Trail - Rating: Moderate. In a short 1.2 mile walk you will see 8 different natural communities including; sandhill, xeric hammock, sinkhole lake, baygall, seepage stream, upland mixed forest, mesic flatwoods and floodplain forest.

    Intersections on the West Trail have been numbered to help orient visitors to the trail.

    No picnic or restroom facilities.

    Trail maps are available at the Preserve or you can request a brochure by emailing the link on our contact page. Brochures are available in alternate format on request.

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