Orlando Wetlands Park is a unique eco-system located in the town of Christmas, 20 miles east of downtown Orlando, Florida. It looks at first glance like a natural wetlands with an incredible variety of both animal and botanical wonders. But when you see the bermed roadways and walking paths, you realize itís more than that. And youíd be right. Itís a lot more than that.
In 1986, the City of Orlando purchased 1,650 acres in Christmas to help filter wastewater generated by the Iron Bridge Regional Wastewater Reclamation Facility. The City converted this land, originally pasture, into a 1,220 acre man-made wetland treatment system that includes deep marsh areas, mixed marsh and wet prairie and hardwood swamps. The site is planted with 2.3 million aquatic plants Ė including 200,000 trees - to create a man-made wetlands that includes a 100-acre lake.
The Wetlands is home to over 220 species of birds, including blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, common moorhens and Amaerican coots. Wood storks, white ibis, black-crowned night herons, and other wading birds are common during the cooler months. Bald eagles, limpkins, and red-shouldered hawks, black vultures, and turkey vultures are year round residents in the Orlando Wetlands Park.
Raccoons, river otters, white-tailed deer and bobcats can be seen along the roads and hiking trails. The Orlando Wetlands is home to over 30 species of wildlife that are listed on the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission's Threatened and Endangered Wildlife list.
Iíve lived in Orlando since 1989 and just discovered Orlando Wetlands Park last March. Since then, Iíve visited the park more than a dozen times and have never come home without several great shots of wading birds, flying birds, fabulous insects and flowers, and the occasional mammal. Oh, and Alligators. Lots of Alligators!
Orlando Wetlands Park is a model for how communities can deal with the issues of growth without ignoring the needs of the environment. In fact, with the Wetlands Park, Orlando has created a unique environment for resident and migratory wildlife and a wonderful place for local residents and visitors alike to experience the joys of nature in a man-made but completely natural environment. For photographers, itís a paradise. I hope some of you will have the chance to experience it in the near future.