Lake Apopka North Shore

About this property

The Lake Apopka North Shore is a true diamond in the rough. The restoration of former muck farms has transformed this area into a haven for wildlife and a jewel for the recreating public. The 20,000 acres that make up the Lake Apopka North Shore, were once part of the lake itself. However, these valuable wetlands were separated from the lake in 1941 by a large levee. This decreased the size of Lake Apopka from more than 50,000 acres, to just over 30,000 acres. Lake Apopka is the state’s fourth-largest lake and is fed by a natural spring, rainfall and stormwater runoff. The headwaters of the Ocklawaha Chain of Lakes, the lake was designated for cleanup under the Surface Water Improvement and Management Act of 1987.

Major district activities here include marsh and floodplain restoration and the creation of a marsh flow-way system that filters Lake Apopka’s waters by circulating lake water through restored wetlands. In 1996, the Florida Legislature passed Chapter 96‑207, Florida Statutes, furthering its previous mandate to clean up the lake by providing funds to buy additional agricultural lands north of the lake. Restoration of these farmlands to functioning wetlands is expediting cleanup efforts.

The Lake Apopka Loop Trail follows the lake’s edge through the property, covering more than 20 miles and providing hiking and biking opportunities. The Loop Trail is expected to circumnavigate Lake Apopka in the future, but is currently an out-and-back trail traversing the northern half of the lake. There are four trailheads for the Loop Trail with restrooms at the Green Mountain, North Shore/McDonald Canal boat ramp and Magnolia Park trailheads and port-a-lets at the historic pump house. No drinking water is provided along the trail.

The North Shore property also has a marked white trail suitable for hiking, biking and horseback riding (6-mile loop) on Clay Island, with four observation towers, including one overlooking the west shoreline of Lake Apopka. You’ll find an additional 2.6 miles trails (the red trail) for biking, hiking and horseback riding.

One of the special highlights of this property is the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. The drive is a one-way, 11-mile drive meandering through the eastern portion of the property. It begins at Lust Road and ends on Jones Avenue in Orange County, Fla. The drive is open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays, opening at sunrise and the entrance closes one hour before sunset. This trip takes 1–3 hours, depending on the usage and how many stops visitors choose to make along the way. The speed limit is 10 mph and the maximum vehicle length is 25 feet; no trailers allowed. A few restrooms and picnic pavilion are available on the property (see trail guide map for locations), but there is no drinking water provided. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed at all times. Stopping is limited to designated pull-outs provided along the length of the drive. A portion of the drive intersects with a multi-use trail and visitors are encouraged to carefully watch for hikers, bicycle riders and other users who share the road.

Wildlife viewing

Please respect Florida’s wildlife and use caution while visiting district lands. These are wild animals. For your safety, do not approach or feed any wild animal. Lake Apopka North Shore offers extraordinary bird-watching opportunities. It is one of the top three birding areas for the entire state (includes Everglades National Park and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge). The Lake Apopka North Shore is considered one of the most renowned birding destinations in Florida, with 369 different bird species recorded on the property. Visitors to the property are surprised by rare bird sighting nearly every year. During the winter months, more than 150 species regularly use the property, from showy herons and egrets to numerous tiny warblers and flycatchers. The site set a one-day Christmas Bird Count record in 1998 when 174 species were recorded. This is the highest Florida Christmas Bird Count for any inland (versus coastal) location. The bird list (2014) continues to grow and includes 362 species. Other wildlife routinely seen include numerous American alligators, bobcats, otters, bears, raccoons, armadillos and coyotes.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive Audio Tour
Recreational activities
  1. The Lake Apopka Loop Trail and two blazed hiking trails area available for hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and wildlife viewing.
  2. Horses are not permitted at the Green Mountain and Magnolia Park trailheads (these are county parks). Horses are welcome to enter at the North Shore and Clay Island trailheads.
  3. Motorized vehicle access is available only on the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive and only on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays.
  4. Motorboat, canoe and kayaking launching is available at the McDonald Canal Boat Ramp.
Wildlife Drive schedule

The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is open between sunrise and sunset on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and the following federal holidays:

  • New Year’s Day — Jan. 1
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day — Third Monday in January
  • Presidents’ Day — Third Monday in February
  • Memorial Day — Last Monday in May
  • Independence Day — July 4
  • Labor Day — First Monday in September
  • Columbus Day — Second Monday in October
  • Veterans Day — Nov. 11
  • Thanksgiving Day — Fourth Thursday in November
  • Christmas — Dec. 25