This past Saturday April 30th we were treated to a behind the scenes tour at Forever Florida and the Crescent J Ranch and it couldn’t have been a more perfect day. We enjoyed our private tour around the 4,700 acre natural Florida attraction courtesy of the Forever Florida wildlife photographer Bill Crotts (took barred owl photo above) who makes frequent trips out to the ranch to capture the animal and fun happenings.
The day began early as we arrived at the ranch, that’s just south of Holopaw and St Cloud Florida on 441, at 7:15 am. As we started our 6 hour tour of the ranch we almost immediately spotted a barred owl down in one of the culverts that follow the beginning of the main access road. Being that the sun was up and owls are nocturnal birds, this was a rare sight and the first time my wife had ever seen an owl in the wild. As you can see from the picture above, owls are whimsical looking creatures.
Early in the morning is one of the best times to see wildlife and starting with the barred owl and continuing on into the morning, we were not disappointed. We saw a multitude of deer and several fawns running along fence lines and playing in the open pastures. Birds were also plentiful as we spied hawks, meadowlarks, swallow tailed kites and what seemed to be abnormally large crows, some approaching the size of small buzzards. Spring is the time as well for colts as we came across a couple of horse areas and it seemed like almost every third mare had a baby. In one feeding area there were a group of cracker horses and as soon as we pulled up and got out of our truck, the entire group came up to us hoping we had something to feed them. It was a joy to watch this fairly large social gathering of mares and their colts up close and see how they interacted with one another. There is simple pleasure in just observing God’s creatures in an open setting.
Mare and Colt:
Later in the day we were able to watch at one of the landing platforms of the Zipline Adventure and see as zippers (I guess that’s what you call them) came in after a run on one of the lines. The next launching point over from where we were was the tallest tower along the tour standing what some might think to be an intimidating 55′ tall. Don’t worry though, you’re pretty well strapped in your harness so, just step off the platform and enjoy the ride.
Our last stop on the tour was at the small zoo on the Forever Florida side that houses several animals plus a selection of big cats including a wild serval that was not any too happy to see us, what we though was some kind of black Egyptian cat that was about twice the size of a normal house cat and a very regal looking Florida panther, western mountain lion mix breed. Other animals at the wildlife interaction area included a coati, which looks like a raccoon with an extra long nose, baby alligators, a couple of large lizards and a few assorted birds.
Not so happy Serval:
We also explored some of the camping areas for scouts, families, summer camps and future areas for a couple of small log cabin rentals to be placed on the property. Also, watch for a future post about Camp Illahaw Horse and Adventure Summer Camp.
It was a fun and adventurous tour of all areas of the Crescent J Ranch and Forever Florida and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We’re sure you will also enjoy all there is to do at Forever Florida because you really never know what you will see. Make plans to be surprised by the real Florida today. Read our previous post or visit their website to get more information.