If you have a nature lover in your group, then Orlando Wetlands Park is the place for you. The park consists of 1,200 acres of man-made wetlands designed for the treatment of reclaimed water from Orlando and other local cities. It represents the first of its type of man-made/natural process filtration system for reclaimed water coming out of sewage plants. Up to 35 million gallons a day travel into the wetlands.
How the Wetlands Work
The reclaimed water is fed into one end of the wetlands. On average, it takes about 40 days for the water to filter its way thru the 17 wetland “cells” before flowing out to the St. Johns River, purely by gravity. By then it is cleaner than the water in the St. Johns River.
This process filters nitrogen and phosphorous out of the water. By doing so, it contributes to the growth of weeds and algae in the wetland park. Therefore, not polluting the St. Johns river. The final outcome of the process results in clean water for about .03 cents per gallon and a wonderful wetlands park for all of us.
The Orlando Wetlands Park is a perfect place for visitors to enjoy seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset. It is fantastic for photography, wildlife viewing, hiking, biking, horse riding, and guided tours.
When we first got into the park we took a short walk on the newly built, half-mile Cypress Boardwalk. We were quite amazed at the diversity of amphibians, fish, birds, and plants that were visible from the boardwalk.
The Roseate Spoonbill and the Purple Gallinule, both rarely seen birds, are quite visible. On the day of our visit, the Roseate Spoonbills and the Great Blue Herons were making their nests and getting ready to lay their eggs.
If alligators are your thing, there are an estimated 1600 of them in the wetlands. They range in size from 10-12 ft all the way down to babies.
We were there in mid-afternoon so many of the furry animals like bobcats, otters, and deer were not visible. However, there is an abundance of them around.
The Tram Tours
After our hike, we caught a ride on one of the golf cart types of vehicles that the Orlando Wetlands Park volunteers maintain. The carts hold about 8 to 10 people. Our wildlife guide volunteer was an avid birder so we were able to get a lot of information on the types of birds and what they were doing. The ride is also free and lasted a little under an hour during which time we covered a couple of miles of the berms. Tours are available Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays from 9 AM to 3 PM, weather permitting. Get there early for better visibility of some birds and other wildlife.
Currently, there is a small Education Center that showcases some live animals and displays of the park. A large Education Center, currently under construction, will be open in the summer of 2023. You can also purchase birding books, T-shirts, and other memorabilia. The proceeds support the ongoing education program of the park.
Bring A Picnic
The Orlando Wetlands Park has two picnic pavilions with tables and grills. Carry in your own food and be sure to leave only footprints behind!
What to Wear
Depending on the time of year you go, the weather can range from cool to very hot. There is little to no shade. Essentials to bring with you include sunscreen, a secure hat from the wind, and plenty of water.
Location, Parking, and Rules
- The Orlando Wetlands Park is located at 25115 Wheeler Rd., Christmas, Florida 32709.
- Open seven days a week from sunrise until sunset, 365 Days a year
- On-site Parking is free
- Admission to the park is free
- Tram Tours are free
- No motorized vehicles allowed
- Keep your pets at home
- Prohibited are Fishing, Swimming, boating, and camping
- Bicycles have restrictions in certain areas