As we made our way out to Dinner Island Ranch WMA (Wildlife Management Area), we passed by so much agriculture and ranching. Throughout our touring of Central Florida we had been shocked by the amount of cattle that were everywhere.
The land was incredible flat, with swamp ponds and clusters of trees speckled across the landscape. We arrived at Dinner Island Ranch WMA to an audience of 50+ cattle staring at us from the other side of the fence.
We set up our fifthwheel in the designated area, which looked to be just an old cow pasture. We walked along the ranch road for a while, realizing that there were many pastures of cows on this property.
We watched the sun set over the palm trees at the edge of our field.
The next morning we saw 4 men on horseback heading out on the trails. Assuming that they were just trail riders taking advantage of the trails, we were surprised to see them about 20 minutes later herding cattle down the main road from one pasture to another!
We biked down the dirt roads into the ranching areas that made up Dinner Island Ranch WMA. As the ranching leases expired, the land was slowly being restored to its natural habitat. The other campers told us that just earlier that week one of Florida’s endangered panthers passed through the camp area.
Majestic, colorful caracaras could be seen in the tops of the trees, the area is great for bird watching hawks, owls, cranes, herons, and more. Check out SWFloridabirder.com for more amazing birding photos from Dinner Island.
We saw 4 gators on our ride, from 3 feet long to 10+ feet long. The area has 21,714 acres of land that came into public ownership in July 2003. Check out the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website for more information.
We also saw many cows. Big cows, and baby cows. We even saw a bull that recently had his horns cut, and the blood streamed down the sides of his cheeks. I was horrified by this. Unfortunately, it turns out that this is a common practice with bulls – otherwise they fight and injure each other. Laws regulating the practice are either not present or not enforced, depending on the area.
Here, like in so many of the places we went in Florida, we thought about how this is not the “Florida” most people think of. Here there were vast expanses of flat, swampy, open land occupied by cattle and agriculture, where hardly anyone goes.
Out of sight, out of mind, and so when big pollution, environmental, or endangered species habitat problems crop up, people have no idea what it is about. Conservation and preservation are so important because of the damage caused by all the cattle and the farming, and you just don’t get it until you see it.
Dinner Island Ranch WMA is at the very beginning of its restoration, where the cause of the damage is still present for the time being. Looking around us as we biked it’s miles of gravel roads, fenced pastures, gates, and barns, it has a long way to go.
Travel Stage: We left Palm City and head south west to get over to the Gulf side of Florida.
Date Range: Feb 11- Feb 12, 2016
Summary: After Palm City we overnight at Dinner Island before continuing on to Naples. The WMA gets us closer than ever to Florida’s cattle industry.
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