Managed in cooperation with the Florida Forest Service External Website

photo of Matanzas
David Moynahan

Just eight miles south of St. Augustine in St. Johns County, the Matanzas Wildlife Management Area (WMA) occupies 4,699 acres within the Matanzas State Forest. The forest protects two miles of estuarine marsh along the Intracoastal Waterway (Matanzas River) - the last remaining undisturbed salt marsh within the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve External Website. The forest and WMA are part of the Matanzas Marsh, a 16,000-acre continuous conservation corridor. The marsh is vital to the protection of water quality and wildlife habitat in the Matanzas River. The area has a rich cultural history and the state forest is a site on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail External Website.

The majority of the uplands are pine plantation, managed for commercial timbering prior to state purchase in 2003. Other habitats include bay and cypress swamps, hardwood hammock and salt marsh. The Florida Forest Service manages the area using a combination of timber harvesting, invasive species eradication and reforestation. Regular controlled burns improve conditions for vegetation and wildlife. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission administers hunting related activities. Wildlife is abundant and includes gopher tortoises, otters, nesting bald eagles External Website, a large wood stork colony, breeding painted buntings and large aggregations of wading and shorebirds foraging in the freshwater and estuarine wetlands.

Recreational opportunities include hunting, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, bicycling, canoeing and kayaking, wildlife viewing and picnicking. Camping is allowed by permit only from the Florida Forest Service (386-446-6786). The network of unpaved roads is ideal for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding. Temporary road closures protect sensitive species. A foot trail winds north along the Matanzas River on the eastern edge of the property, passing through a patch of hardwoods. Check the regulations summary for more detailed information about hunting seasons. The forest is open for public use year-round, from sunrise to sunset. Free day use permits are required.

For more information: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (352) 732-1225, and the Florida Forest Service (386) 446-6786, Florida Forest Service External Website.

FWC Facts:
According to The Economist, ecotourism is the fastest growing segment of world tourism.

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