The Fort Island Trail is a nine-mile driving trail with four stops along the way.
First Stop is at Dixie Shores (3 miles from US19). This is Preserve Property. Turn left at Dixie Shores and loop around to the parking area on the east side. This section is .09 mile walking trail. Allow an hour or more to cover the area properly. The trail is a raised, hard-pack dike through woods, marsh and scrub.
Second Stop is at the Red Fish Hole at mile four, also on the Preserve. Park in the parking lot and start birding. Continue along the trail to the ponds. On good days, one can spend a couple hours at the Red Fish Hole.
Third Stop is Fort Island Trail County Park at mile five. The Park has a beautiful pier on the Crystal River for bird observation on the river. The Park is an easy, handicap-accessible trail.
Fourth stop is at the end of the trail at Fort Island Beach County Park at mile nine. Park and walk along the south end of the beach around the rock jetty, search the beach to the south, continue north along the bathing beach to the wooded area and the beach near the boat landing. The new fishing pier provides good views of the Gulf.Access to the trail:
US19 at the Plantation Inn west on Fort Island Trail.
Hours of Operation:
Dawn to Dusk
This trail provides many opportunities to bird from US19 to the beach in addition to the designated stops listed above. Fort Island Trail is the only trail in Citrus County that is accessible to a beach on the Gulf of Mexico. During our year 2000 bird census this trail had the largest bird counts of all our trails, with a total of 146 bird species seen.
The side roads on this trail are also worth visiting. Sea Cove at mile 3.4 is a good example. Park off the road and walk the edge; there is a stream on the west side. This is all private property, so keep to the road.
The pier at the beach is a good place for winter flocks of loons, mergansers, white pelicans, common golden eye ducks, long-tailed ducks and possible gannet.Birding Opportunities:
Fort Island Trail provides one the best opportunities to see a wide variety of birds. All the wading birds, clapper rails, wood storks and ibis are some of the larger birds. Swallowtail kites, bald eagles, harriers and other hawks are also common. The wooded areas at the entrance to Dixie Shores and Red Fish Hole are good areas for passerines, especially warblers in the spring. See the bird census for this trail for details.
Photography by Bill Garvin
Stop 2, Red Fish Hole