Gainesville’s gorgeous, manifold landscape offers all kinds of natural attractions for its residents and visitors. Lakes, creeks, and rivers are peppered throughout the whole city, and offer many opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and exploring.
Located just eight miles south of campus, Lake Wauberg is a hub for outdoor recreation and exploration. The Lake offers two different UF RecSports parks, North Park and South Shore, open to all UF faculty, staff, and students. Admission and activities are free with a Gator 1 Card. Individuals with a Gator 1 Card may also bring up to four guests. There is an endless list of possibilities at Lake Wauberg. Take part in any of the fun activities, including boating, sailing, swimming, biking, rock climbing, and so much more. Whether you’re looking to lay out on a towel and soak up some sun or test your limits on the team development courses, Lake Wauberg has it all. For more information about Lake Wauberg, visit the UF RecSports page.
Newnans Lake is a designated Fish Management Area, located about two miles east from the city. This lake attracts anglers from all over town with its abundant fish population and high cypress trees. The most common fish found in the lake are catfish and bream, which can be caught year-round in deeper areas of the lake. You’ll also be able to find lots of beautiful vegetation on the shoreline, like emergent grasses, bulrush, and water lilies.
One of UF’s gems, Lake Alice is a small lake located near the Bat House. Alligators are plentiful here, and you can spot one floating or basking in the sun on any given day. The lake is also home to a population of softshell turtles -- you may notice one of their heads peeking out from the water sometimes. The northwest side of the lake has a boardwalk that allows you to walk through a preserved wildlife area. This is the perfect place to take a jog or a stroll and take in the beauty of the lake’s calm water.
Located west of Route 441 and south of Archer Road, Bivens Arm is a small shallow lake that is part of Paynes Prairie. Bivens Arm has a unique environment with diverse and thriving wildlife. You can visit the lake by taking a hike through Bivens Arm Nature Park (Gainesville’s first nature park). The land is 57 acres of marsh and oak hammock, featuring a wildlife sanctuary, shaded picnic areas, an observation pavilion, a boardwalk, and a mile-long nature trail. Birdwatchers will appreciate Bivens Arm's colorful assortment of birds like blue herons, gallinules, moorhens, egrets, songbirds, and owls. There is even a variety of native turtles living in the lake. Those who enjoy fishing can spend the day at Bivens Arm, trying their luck with the lake’s bass and catfish.
Colclough (pronounced “Coke-lee”) Pond is a stunning sanctuary that offers bank fishing and wildlife viewing. The pond is surrounded by a lovely nature park with lush, green grass, lots of trees, and alligators and turtles. Both the pond and park are only accessible by foot, so keep the lack of parking in mind. Visiting the pond with a couple of fishing rods is fun and free activity for the whole family.
Santa Fe River
This is a 75-mile river that stretches across several North Florida counties. The water is slow-flowing, calm, and full of turtles. Do not be alarmed by the brownish color of the water. It’s caused by all the nearby trees’ (such as bald cypresses) leaves falling into the water. Santa Fe River is strange in its composition, for it disappears for 3-miles underground and suddenly reappears. This is caused by a large sinkhole in O’Leno State Park. Lots of springs like Gilchrist Blue, Ginnie, Hornsby, Lily, Poe, and Rum Island springs are located at the banks of the river -- making them accessible by kayak or canoe. There have been several sightings of animals like black bears, bobcats, rare Florida panthers, and manatees. In addition, the Santa Fe River possesses countless plant and animal fossil remnants, just like many of the rivers in Florida. The headwaters of the river are Lake Santa Fe, located near Keystone Heights, another body of water that boasts gorgeous wildlife. If you’re looking for a real adventure, visit the Santa Fe Canoe Outpost for day trips, overnight trips, and special full moon trips. The outpost offers a variety of group activities that allow you to take in the wonderful serenity of the river.
The Hogtown Creek watershed spreads across 21-square miles with headwaters north of NW 53rd Ave., flowing through Hogtown Prairie and into the Floridan aquifer via Haile Sink. The Creek can be viewed and enjoyed at several urban parks, including Alfred A. Ring Park, Hogtown Creek Headwaters, Loblolly Woods Nature Park, 29th Road Nature Park, Green Acres Park, Westside Park, John Mahon Nature Park, Cofrin Nature Park and Split Rock Conservation Area. Most of the hikes along the creek are short and sweet -- great for dog walks or brisk jogs. The Creek is awesome to look at, but water levels are quite low and recent testing has shown signs of contamination.