The scenic Yellow River corridor within Florida is largely protected under District ownership, as is a section of the Shoal River at its confluence with the Yellow River. This ownership helps protects the Sand and Gravel Aquifer, which is used for water supply in a rapidly growing region that faces water supply and water quality issues. The Sand and Gravel Aquifer lies close to the surface and is susceptible to contaminants from human activity on the land.
The Yellow River Water Management Area covers 17,721 acres and includes 19 miles of river frontage. The river is also a state-designated canoe trail and District land is open for hiking, fishing, hunting, camping and bird-watching. The area protects habitat of such listed species as Florida black bear, Gulf sturgeon, Okaloosa darter, endemic mayflies, mountain laurel and spider lilies. Visitors are reminded that floodplains are frequently inundated during heavy rainfall and annual river floods.
The Yellow River flows into East Bay at Escribano Point, which includes a significant portion of the remaining undisturbed estuarine habitat within the entire Pensacola Bay system. The District has preserved much of this area by purchasing 1,176 acres on the point, near the Yellow River Aquatic Preserve. The District acquisition helps connect an extensive estuarine network that includes Catfish Basin and Fundy Bayou. It also complements District wetlands protection and preservation efforts on Garcon Point, an endangered species refuge.
Elsewhere in the preserve, the District is restoring hydrology and habitat to previously ditched and drained pastureland on 275 wetland acres to offset impacts of four-laning nearby Highway 87. Ultimately, acquisition and restoration of wetlands will enhance the water quality of the Yellow River.
Garcon Point peninsula, between Escambia and Blackwater bays, is a nearly lost world of carnivorous plants. One of few intact pitcher plant prairies in Florida, the District has preserved three tracts totaling 3,245 acres. This Water Management Area harbors at least 13 endangered or threatened plant and animal species. These include the imperiled panhandle lily and the rare Henslow and Le Conte’s sparrows. Also preserved are the natural wetland functions of filtering stormwater from adjacent lands and protecting the water quality of surrounding bays, as well as their estuarine and marine ecosystems.
Spring and summer visitors to this estuarine tidal marsh, wet prairie and wet flatwoods may also see carnivorous sundews, butterwort and bladderworts, orchids and other spectacular wild flowers. Bird life is abundant, especially during the early morning hours, and Garcon Point is a designated Great Birding Trail. Bluebirds, pine warblers, ospreys, harriers and red-tailed hawks are common. A 2.7 mile trail, established through the preserve by the Florida Trail Association, is on Route 191, nine miles south of Milton (take Interstate 10 to State Road 281 to Route 191). A Garcon Point Hiking Trail Guide is available on request, (850)539-5999. Hikers are reminded to wear protective clothing and bring insect repellent.