At The Disney Wilderness Preserve, you can hike, bird-watch and enjoy old Florida’s natural beauty. There is no fee, although donations are appreciated.
What to See: Animals
Birds include the bald eagle, red-cockaded woodpecker, wood stork, sandhill crane, Northern harrier and crested caracara. The preserve is also home to the Southeastern big-eared bat, Sherman’s fox squirrel, Eastern indigo snake and gopher tortoise. The Florida panther has even been documented crossing the site!
What to See: Plants
The Disney Wilderness Preserve features cypress swamp, freshwater marsh, scrub, flatwoods and oak hammocks. A rejuvenated longleaf pine forest—replete with a lush understory of native grasses, saw palmetto and other shrubs—is one result of the use of prescribed fire to the land. Key flowers include the fall-flowering ixia, Catesby’s lily and terrestrial orchids.
The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve
2700 Scrub Jay Trail
Kissimmee, FL 34759
Hikers: Please register at the Information Center prior to setting out and allow at least two hours to hike the trail (not including stops.) For your safety and comfort, bring drinking water, hats, sun protection, bug repellent and use appropriate footwear. Always be aware of changing weather conditions. Water levels fluctuate based on rainfall and groundwater levels; trails may be wet at times.
Pets, smoking, weapons and alcohol are prohibited. Please stay on the trail and do not collect plants or animals.
The hiking trail includes a one-mile trip to Lake Russell. Those wishing a longer experience may continue along the 2.5-mile loop, which offers a closer look at the preserve’s natural communities.
A Model Preserve
The restoration of wetland and upland habitat has included the elimination of non-native, invasive plants and grasses, controlled burns in fire-dependent habitats and the mechanical removal of excessive shrub and tree growth.
In 2012, regulators deemed the restoration of The Disney Wilderness Preserve’s wetlands successful, making the project an unparalleled victory for conservation. The work done on the preserve is already improving the quality and quantity of water within the Greater Everglades watershed and has served as a springboard for the Conservancy’s effort to protect other ranches in the watershed and secure federal support for Florida conservation projects.
The Preserve is a living laboratory where people work and learn together about healing the land and thriving in harmony with the natural environment.
The Preserve has become the centerpiece of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. The collaborative approach that produced The Disney Wilderness preserve is being applied to this project by bringing together state and federal agencies to envision a conservation area that includes both public and private land, the kind of wetland restoration pioneered at the preserve, and a combination of working and protected lands.
Red-cockaded Woodpecker Translocation Program
The Conservancy works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a program to return the red-cockaded woodpecker to the preserve. Relocated woodpeckers are rebounding in the restored longleaf pine habitat.
Wood Stork Rookery
The Conservancy partners with The Walt Disney Company’s Animal Kingdom to monitor one of the most closely studied wood stork rookeries in the United States. Hundreds of this ancient, endangered bird flock to the preserve each spring, where they roost in raucous splendor among old growth bald cypress.
A Laboratory for Scientific Experiments
The Conservancy has teamed with scientists from the University of Central Florida and the National Ecological Observatory Network to better understand issues such as climate change by measuring the amount of carbon stored in different habitats at the preserve. Sensitive instruments collect data on weather, water, energy and carbon storage. Scientific studies help document the value of natural habitats.
Green Building Features
The preserve’s Conservation Learning Center and other buildings include green features such as:
• Geothermal heating and cooling
• Freshwater catchment for irrigation and other non-potable uses
• Green forest-grown pine lumber comes from a Certified Sustainable Forest
• Solar panels collect steady sunlight; wide porches and ceiling fans shield work areas
• Low VOC paint
• All porch (or outdoor) furniture made from recycled materials