By Gary McKechnie

Back in the ‘20s and ‘30s, Central Florida’s Lake Apopka – the state’s fourth-largest freshwater lake and the headwaters of the Ocklawaha River –was considered a prize spot for sportfishing, attracting thousands of anglers, including celebrities like Gary Cooper and Babe Ruth.

Sadly, it became polluted by fertilizer and garbage and came close to becoming a dead lake before folks wised up. For the past few decades, people have been trying to resuscitate the lake and while that effort continues, activists and the St. Johns River Water Management District have been reintroducing migratory birds to the reeds and marshes along the shoreline.

That wildlife is part of the appeal of a new 11-mile driving trail along the 20,000-acre north shore of Lake Apopka.

The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive south of Mount Dora begins at Lust Road and ends on Jones Road in Orange County and, along the way, intersects with the Lake Apopka Loop Trail – a popular recreational trail for hikers, bikers, joggers, and skaters.

And what will you see on your drive? There’s no guarantee, but keep in mind that there are 362 species of birds here as well as alligators, bobcats, otters, and other wildlife.

The hardtop road includes pullouts, and vehicles are limited to 25 feet. For information on one of Florida’s great nature drives, check out this blog on the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

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Apopka Pops

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Lake Apopka, Florida's second-largest lake, doesn't get the attention it should. Restoration efforts are bringing this lake back to its...