The Smokehouse Prairie is a wetland located approximately 6 miles Southeast of Hawthorne, Fl and 5 miles Northwest of Orange Springs, Fl. This wetland area is well over 400 acres and is a main source of water for Gillis Pond and Lake Fanny which are on the East side of the wetland. There does not seem to be a documented name for the wetland, however we refer to it as the Smokehouse Prairie due to the dense fog that appears over the wetland in morning and evenings when the temperatures are cool.
During high water levels the wetland is approximately two feet deep which provides an opportunity to paddle on the wetland and reach Lake Fanny from Gillis Pond.
Location: The Smokehouse Prairie is a wetland located approximately 6 miles Southeast of Hawthorne, Fl and 5 miles Northwest of Orange Springs, Fl.
Launch/Take Out Point: The launch and take out for this paddle is from our private property located on Gillis Pond.
Paddle Distance: Distance varies based on the amount of exploration desired, but on average, to paddle all the accessible areas to include Lake Fanny it is about a 6 mile paddle.
Difficulty: Easy as long as the water is high. As the water table recedes, some areas are to shallow to get through to more open water.
Average Paddle Time: 2.25 mph.
Width and Depth: The wetland varies in width, however the open water areas can be any where from a couple of hundred feet to well over a quarter mile.
Rest Areas: NA
The Paddle Route…
Exploring the ‘Smokehouse’…
The best time to explore the ‘Smokehouse’ is in the cooler weather and when the water level is high. We have had a great deal of rain over the past two years, well above 7′! This has made exploring the Smokehouse a real treat, as the water level in most spots is around 2′ deep. We choose this paddle on a cool 50+° morning this week.
The ‘Smoke’ was not real obvious when we got out to the wetland, but the air was definitely cool. We chose to head North and follow the shoreline of all the connecting open marshes. Along the way, there were still patches of Tickseed Sunflowers in bloom as was scattered Scrub St. John’s Wort. The wetland is filled with ‘islands’ containing Sawgrass, Sedges and Maidencane. On many of the exposed mud islands Sundews were seen.
Throughout the paddle, the skeletons of dead shrubs, protruded above the water, along with dead young pine seedlings that had to be paddle through. The shorelines were lined with tall Pines, Dahoon Holly, Loblolly Bay, Red Maples and Saw Palmettos. On several occasions we watched families of deer foraging along the banks. The wetland is home to many resident Sand Hill Cranes and as we paddled, we observed several ‘couples’ on their Reed and Sawgrass islands, not quite ready to take flight in the early morning. Numerous Herons were seen as well as White Egrets.
By the time we entered Lake Fanny the wind had increased significantly and getting tired we turned around and headed back to Gillis Pond, ending another chapter of Florida Paddle Notes.
The ‘Smokehouse’ Gallery:
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