Located east of Tarpon Springs and Palm Harbor, that wilderness has since been set aside and today is managed by the county. It goes by the name Brooker Creek Preserve, and even more surprising than its presence is the fact that it is larger than any of the state parks in the five-county area that stretches from Manatee to Hernando.
The preserve’s green tapestry is woven of bottomland hardwood swamps, cypress heads, oak hammocks, forests of longleaf pine, and some freshwater marshes. Enough trees shed their leaves for winter that the tapestry is not entirely green at this moment, but it is pretty nonetheless. On my visit yesterday I enjoyed the look of barren limbs against blue sky:
Contrary to what you might expect, Brooker Creek itself is not a singular waterway. Rather, it crosses the preserve in a series of channels that eventually merge before flowing into
Brooker Creek Preserve’s main entrance is on the south side of
The trails may be accessed from the sign in the parking lot or from behind the education center. It makes no difference which you choose, because the trailheads represent opposite ends of the 0.7-mile Ed Center Trail, a semi-circular path that links up with the Wilderness Trail and Flatwoods Trail…In turn, both of those link up with the Blackwater Cutoff Trail, as the Flatwoods Trail intersects its northern terminus and the Wilderness Trail intersects its southern…At one point rather far afield, the Blackwater Cutoff intersects the Pine Needle Path, which stakes out to the south and meets up with the Wilderness Trail at the furthest spot you can reach without going illegally off-trail…Oh, and I have not even mentioned the Bird Path, a short side route off the Ed Center Trail all the way back near the beginning.
Sound confusing? It probably does, but the good news is that it all makes sense when you look at the trail map and follow the numbered signs. Maps are free and can be picked up from dispensers at the trailheads.
It is worth noting that while this trail network is the only one accessible from Brooker Creek Preserve’s main entrance, it is not the only one in the preserve. There is a second preserve entrance on
Lastly, a third entrance to Brooker Creek Preserve can be found on Lora Lane, which turns south from Tarpon Springs Road about a half-mile west of the main entrance. The downside of the
I can not think of any reason not to visit Brooker Creek this time of year, so I encourage you to point your car in its direction as soon as you can. Happy Trails!