Bell Ridge Longleaf Wildlife and Environmental Area
Located 23 miles northwest of Gainesville, the 720-acre Bell Ridge Longleaf Wildlife and Environmental Area (WEA) features mature rolling sandhills with an overstory of longleaf pine and turkey oak, and a wiregrass dominated groundcover. These well-managed upland habitats support a healthy gopher tortoise population and help protect the Floridan aquifer, a source of drinking water in the region.
Prior to its purchase by the state, Bell Ridge Longleaf WEA was known as Davidson Ranch. It was managed as a preserve by The Nature Conservancy and as a conservation property by the previous landowner. Today, visitors can hike the network of unpaved roads and enjoy wildlife viewing and spectacular displays of fall wildflowers that follow spring burns.
No Daily-Use Permit currently required.
Amenities include parking area and covered picnic area.
In support of the resource management goals and objectives for the area and to provide a quality experience for all area users, the following recreation activities are allowed.
Visitors can enjoy an opportunity to see well-managed sandhill habitat with its seasonal displays of wildflowers and wildlife such as gopher tortoises, eastern indigo snakes, fox squirrels, woodpeckers, kestrels and a variety of resident and seasonal songbirds.
The network of unpaved roads winds through the forest, giving visitors an excellent opportunity to experience this habitat and its wildlife.
Vehicles, bicycles and horses are not permitted. There is one entrance, with parking. Possession of any animal is prohibited.
Located in Gilchrist County, approximately 11 miles northwest of Newberry, 12 miles northeast of Trenton and 10 miles east of Bell. From Newberry, travel north on US 27 for 5.6 miles and turn left onto CR 232. After 4 miles, turn right (north) onto NE 80th Ave/CR 337. Go 1.5 miles and watch for the entrance on the left (west) side of road.
Additional wildlife viewing sites in the vicinity
Watermelon Pond Wildlife and Environmental Area, Lafayette Forest Wildlife and Environmental Area, Goethe State Forest, Fanning Springs State Park, Andrews Wildlife Management Area, San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, O’Leno State Park, River Rise Preserve State Park, Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Trenton, 12 miles southwest; Bell, 10 miles east; High Springs, 7.5 miles northeast, Newberry, 7.5 miles southeast; Gainesville, 23 miles southeast; Chiefland, 21.5 miles southwest.
Expect to see gopher tortoises or the sandy mounds that mark their burrows. Keep an eye out for eastern indigo snakes and Sherman’s fox squirrels. Red-bellied, downy, pileated and red-headed woodpeckers are often spotted on standing snags where they search for insects and excavate nesting cavities. This quiet site affords an excellent opportunity to listen for Bachman’s sparrows, eastern towhees, orchard orioles, pine warblers and white-eyed vireos. Look for tracks of mammals and reptiles in the sandy trails and enjoy displays of wildflowers in the spring and fall. Watch overhead for turkey vultures, red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks, and American kestrels.
Bell Ridge WEA has high-quality native plant communities that include longleaf pine/turkey oak sandhills.
The forest is a benchmark example of a high-quality longleaf pine/turkey oak ecosystem. The primary management objective is to promote habitat conditions most critical to meeting the life history requirements of the gopher tortoise and other upland wildlife. To this end, biologists manage and protect the native habitats with regular prescribed burns and the control of nonnative invasive plant species.