My friend Maureen sets up a horseback ride that includes a couple of her out-of-town friends, myself, and her. Our destination is Watermelon Pond, a 30-acre lake known for very good fishing in the southwest part of Alachua County.
Our horses, for the two-hour trot around the lake, are Appaloosas. The horses are very gentle, smart and well-behaved. It is my first horseback ride in Florida, and my first visit to Watermelon Pond, a place that I have long heard is ecologically impressive. Apparently, the state of Florida was impressed as well, since our guide tells us the state has acquired Watermelon Pond about 8 months prior to our ride.
Our ride is through large stands of uplands around the Pond—mostly longleaf pine-turkey oak ecological communities. At the edge of the Pond, the water is quite clear—obviously spring-fed—and the vegetation reminds me of what I have seen while canoeing Okefenokee Swamp.
More about Watermelon Pond
In 1987, KBN Ecological Consultants were hired by Alachua County to conduct an ecological inventory of significant natural areas. Watermelon Pond was ranked the fifth most significant ecosystem in the County. The ecosystem is noted for having excellent and extensive sandhill, unusual scrub, and a scenic marsh/lake complex. Water levels fluctuate significantly. A border of maidencane-dominated prairie surrounds the Pond, and includes sand cord grass, yellow lotus, and a variety of other wetland species. The variety of wildlife at Watermelon Pond is impressive. Included are deer, tortoises, pocket gophers, kestrel, kingbird, woodpeckers, alligators, wading birds (such as egrets, ducks and great blue heron), bobcat, opossum, and foxes.