Disney Wilderness Preserve

So I am in Florida and I have finally been to Disney……
The Disney Wilderness Preserve that is and it is probably the only thing associated with Disney which is FREE!


This was another place I had not previously visited, despite having been to Florida a number of times. I think the Disney name leaded me to feel that this nature preserve would be another mock up the Disney fakeness; concrete trees, a man made lake, a plastic heron and a speaker bellowing out sounds of various non-native Floridian bird life. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

About the Preserve

The 11500 acre Disney Wilderness Preserve is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy, the same organisation who also manage Tiger Creek Preserve.  In 1992, Disney purchased 8500 acres of land and donated it to the Nature Conservancy. This was Disney’s way of paying a little back to Florida, for the damage the Disney Resort has caused to it’s natural habitat. Disney also donated a substantial amount of money for restoration and with the land donations from additional companies, the Disney Wildlife Preserve was born.

Extensive restoration has taken place to remove plants that are not native to Florida, as well as removing agricultural and farming influences which brought the preserve back up to its original state. There are more than 750 types of plants, 300 species of wildlife (including the Florida Panther) and 50 kinds of butterflies living at the preserve. Many of these are rare or endangered.


The Trails

On arrival, visitors are requested to sign in at the welcome centre. The welcome centre is small but there are some interesting things to see inside and there is the opportunity to borrow binoculars, a compass or information about what wildlife you may see on your visit. As always on these trails, its worth picking up a map at the trail head.

At Disney Wildlife Preserve there is a choice of three trails. It was a hot day again, so we opted for the red “Wilderness trail” which is 2.5 miles long and runs past Lake Russell.

Lake Russell

Just 3/4 of a mile along the trail we reached Lake Russell, which i found stunning.

It is an idea spot to stop for a picnic and to listen to the sounds of nature.  This area is sheltered from the Florida sun and a cooling breeze came off the lake.

These trees growing out of the lake always fascinate me. They are called Cypress trees and they are found throughout Florida because they can withstand flooding better than any other species.

When Cypress trees are found around water, they grow stumps which are called “knees”. Its not clear what the purpose of the “knees” are, but some scientists have speculated it maybe to help oxygenate the roots because these trees often grow in stagnant swamp land. Another theory is that these “knees” may help anchor the tree to the soft muddy soil.

After a picnic, we continued on the trail. We passed this interesting seat.

And some more of the charred tree stumps I spoke about on the Tiger Creek Preserve post.

The landscape was less diverse at this preserve. There were a lot of pine trees, which I found agreeable because i really like them.

The pines which from these trees are quite a size!


In summary

Disney Wildlife Preserve is a great place to hike around, providing spectacular views over Lake Russell. There is no sign of the mouse anywhere and all the nature is real 😉

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