RV Griffin Reserve, located off Kings Highway in DeSoto County, is a great place to explore. The Reserve boasts 6,000 acres and 21 miles of trails. This property was purchased by the Southwest Florida Water Management District in 1992. Nearly 2,500 acres is open to the public from sunrise to sunset year-round. The remaining land houses onsite drinking water reservoirs for the Peace River Manasota Water Supply Authority, which manages the entire property.

The reserve consists of pine flatwoods, freshwater marshes and wet prairies, with forested wetlands and oak hammocks dotted within. The public access portion of the reserve is a working cattle ranch, so visitors should expect to see cows and be prepared to open and close gates.

Also, since much of the area is pasture, you should also be prepared for tough running. Seriously, when you run here, your quads are probably going to scream at you for a couple days. But it’s a great workout and it’s a lot of fun.

When you arrive at the reserve, there’s quite a bit of parking in an open grassy field. Be sure to check out the kiosk where maps are usually available (look in the mailbox). Word to the wise: The mailbox maps are much better than the one on the website, so if you find one onsite, take a picture of it and store it on your phone for future reference. Also located in the parking area is a porta-potty and at least one picnic table.

To access the trails, you have to take a marl road for about a mile to the first gate. The road has a public walk through gate at the entrance and a drive-through gate for staff, contractors and members of the Charlotte Sport Modelers Society, who lease land for flying remote controlled aircraft on the property. If you visit on the weekend, you will likely see CSMS members driving in and their planes in the air.

Your first gate into the preserve from the parking area is about a mile down the road from the parking area. Another gate is about a half-mile farther. Once inside, you will find the trails well marked with posts and number markers.

Although my running buddy Debbie and I often run on the southern side of the property (it tends to be drier), on our last visit, we ventured over to the north side. The south side was nice and shady, and we found only one small soggy spot on a section of trail 12. This spot was actually a little unexpected as it looked dry until we stepped on it — or should I say splashed in it. Of course the pickerelweed nearby should have been a clue. Pickerelweed is a wetland plant.

We ran eight miles and encounters lots of cattle, a couple deer, spiders (we always encounter spiders) and one garter snake. Much of trail was recently mowed so it was in good shape. My quads still got a real workout.

RV Griffin Reserve is located at 9067 CR 769 (Kings Highway), Arcadia. If you are coming from Charlotte County, it’s five miles north of I-75 exit 170. Sometimes horseflies can be a problem in areas with cattle. I’ve never found this to be an issue here, but you might want to bring bug spray just in case.

“The place where you lose the trail is not necessarily the place where it ends.” — Tom Brown, Jr.

Betty Staugler is the Charlotte County extension agent for the Florida Sea Grant Program and an active runner. Contact her at staugler@ufl.edu or 941-764-4346.

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