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near Lakes of Melbourne Mobile Home Park, Florida (United States)
This hike is really just a levee walk or bike ride if you so desire. I’m not a biker, but I would say that this is more of a trip that a biker might enjoy, rather than a walker. The whole thing is out in the open, at times you can get off the levee and find a shady spot under some trees – but that depends on how dry it is out there. During the wet season you are pretty much restricted to the levee. I did get off the levee a little at times, but then in the shade I was attacked by giant mosquitoes! If you decide to try this hike, I highly recommend that you have plenty of sunscreen and liquids – you may want some bug spray, just in case. This is only the beginning of the actual levee trail/road – you can go on for miles and miles if you so desire! I did see a certain amount of wading birds, as well as meadowlarks and other songbirds. Also, if you’re into alligators, there were some big ones the day I visited the area. I didn’t see any snakes, but I’m told that water moccasins have been seen at times. There was a certain amount of trash around the area, left from careless hikers, hunters and just people who work out there. Consider carrying out some of that trash as I did. This is a road, so be prepared for that. At times you can walk in the grass along the levee, but that is rare. The parking area is for the Thomas O. Lawton Recreation Area, but mainly says “Three Forks” on the sign. There is a large chain fence at the entrance to the levee (trailhead), a walkthrough is provided. There is a little hiking sign on the right side of gate, on the fence, which marks the trailhead/entrance. The gate is just outside the parking lot, off the entrance road.
Be forewarned; don’t go into any areas marked as “No Trespassing” or “Restricted Area”. I made the mistake of taking the wrong levee road (thinking that was the trailhead) and was spotted by the local SJRWMD land manager, who called a sheriff, who gave me a ticket for $55 – not a warning, but a ticket – so be careful of the “nice” people out there!
During my visit in March 2012, I found that the Thomas O. Lawton Recreation Area (parking, facilities etc) was in a major state of deterioration. SJRWMD seems to be completely ignoring their responsibility to maintain it – I hope that changes! If you find the area as bad as I did, please consider reporting the problem to the governing bodies as I did!
Also, one of the best levees (directly south out of parking area) to visit was marked closed during my visit in March 2012. That levee would take you over to the St Johns River, where the views and wildlife are very nice. Also, there are Indian Mounds located in that area, as well as access to campsites located on the river. I know because I had been on the that levee from the river. You might want to ask SJRWMD why they insist on closing this nice area to the general public (I was told special groups are allowed out there).
Note: If you should find that the SJRMWD has fixed the Thomas Lawton Area and/or opened the south levee to the public, please let me know so I can amend my writeup - thank you.
Please, take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints. Check my website for more information - www.tomchoma.com