by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
October is celebrated as Greenways & Trails Month here in Florida and one of the many events held during the month is the Annual Rails to Trails Bike Ride on the Withlacoochee State Trail. The state of Florida purchased the 46-mile defunct railroad corridor in 1989, becoming one of the first purchased under Florida’s Rails-to-Trails Program.
This year marks the 15th annual ride, which was held on Sunday, October 4th at 7 a.m. Bikers chose to ride the entire 46 miles of the paved trail or any number of miles in between. They got to journey along the routes etched out more than a century ago when railroads were a popular way of travel and a transportation mode for trade products.
Passing through a portion of Florida’s third largest state forest, named as one of the ‘10 Coolest Places in North America’ by the World Wildlife Fund, the terrain is a mixture of upland and wetland communities where gopher tortoises, bobcats, river otters, fox squirrels and turkey, to name just a few, take refuge. The cement mileage and whistle markers along the trail, the Lake Henderson trestle, and the Inverness Depot built in 1892 are still present day reminders of days gone by.
Hiking, inline skating and horseback riding are other activities that are offered along the wheelchair accessible trail. The 32-mile long Withlacoochee River Canoe Trail, a favorite of paddlers, the Little Withlacoochee River and Jumper Creek are also located in the state forest and all three have been designated as Outstanding Florida Waters. Paddlers are treated to spectacular views of hardwood forests and river banks lined with cabbage palms, saw palmettos, cypress, gum and maple trees.
For additional information about the 15th Annual Rails to Trails Bike Ride, go to www.railstotrailsonline.com. To learn about other special events during October’s Greenways and Trails Month, and the miles of trails the state has to offer, visit www.FloridaGreenwaysAndTrails.com.