What I love best about Florida is that you only have to go a few miles in any direction to find deeply wooded forests or swampland. We recently checked out the Lake Monroe Conservation Area in West Volusia County. Located off of state route 415, is the St. John’s River Water Management District which includes the Kratzert Tract and Beck Ranch.
The Kratzert Tract was once a family-owned property before it was sold to the water district in the 1980’s. Likewise, Beck Ranch on the opposite side of the highway was once a working cattle ranch before it became the multi-purpose park of today. We explored the Kratzert Tract on this trip. Below is a photo-essay of this easy and beautiful walk through an Old Florida landscape.
The Kratzert Tract Trail
We took the 1.5 mile loop in a counter clockwise direction following the white blazes on the Kratzert Tract. The trail begins and ends at the same place so you really can’t get lost. You are either on the trail or in deep woods or swamp. The beginning is an easy grassy trail promising a beautiful hike for any level.
Deliberately downed trees block what is obviously the original trail. This was the only section that was a little confusing. The original trail is very visible but there’s another trail directly straight ahead too. At one point you can see where the original trail connects with the new trail. We could not see why the trail was rerouted. The new section adds on another 0.25 miles making the total distance around 1.6 miles.
The new trail is much narrower and the forest much thicker through this section. It’s also more technical with roots, rocks, and a few minor dips if you are running.
A Southern State of Mind
At around the halfway point, you enter an oak forest that can only be found in the south. Here the trail widens again. The limbs of the giant oaks create a canopy of moss over the trail.
Look up and see wild oranges overhead. The oranges are edible but wild citrus is very tart to the taste. (Side note: a fresh squeezed wild orange is a great addition to a margarita!)
This section is closer to Lake Monroe and the swamp land leading up to the lake’s edge. You don’t ever get a glimpse of the water from this trail but you do see small streams of water off to the right with a bridge crossing at one point.
Now you are one the home stretch through a forest of tall pines and beautiful Florida blue skies.
Other Trails at the Lake Monroe Conservation Area
The Kratzert Tract is a small portion of the larger Lake Monroe Conservation Area, but you cannot access all of the trails at one location
From Lemon Bluff Road off of SR 415, you can access the Yellow Loop Trail covering 3.3 miles.
Another option is enter Beck Ranch Park. From here you have two trail options:
- The point-to-point Red Blaze Trail (1.9 miles one-way). The red trail gets you closest access to Lake Monroe. This section can be very muddy, wet, and flooded.
- Use the beginning section of the Red Blaze Trail to access the Yellow Loop Trail for 5.6 miles roundtrip.
The St. John’s River Water Management District website contains more information and maps on these additional trails.