The 31.7-mile long trail runs through the Suwannee River Valley, and is managed by the Florida DEP’s Office of Greenways & Trails. Built along abandoned rail lines that intersect at Wilcox Junction, the trail connects the communities of Cross City, Trenton, Fanning Springs and Chiefland.
Traversing Florida's Nature Coast Region through the Suwannee River Valley, the 31.7-mile long Nature Coast State Trail consists of two primary alignments. There are several historical features along the trail including a railroad trestle bridge that crosses the Suwannee River, and depots in Trenton, Cross City, and Chiefland.
In the early 1900s, the railroad was replacing the steamship as the freight and passenger carrier of the Nature Coast. Trains hauled crops and timber throughout the Suwannee River Valley, making passenger stops in small towns such as Chiefland, Cross City, and Trenton. Today, visitors can travel in the shadow of these early trains by retracing their historic route on the Nature Coast State Trail. The 31.7 miles of the Nature Coast State Trail connect three counties and five communities.
The property was acquired from CSX Transportation, Inc. in 1996 by the Office of Greenways and Trails Acquisition Program, a component of Florida Forever. The Florida Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund (Trustees) holds fee simple title to the property. The property is leased to OGT through April 29, 2048. Development for the paving of the trail was funded by the Florida Department of Transportation.
Occupying a former CSX railroad right-of-way, most of the trail parallels US 19 and State Road 26 and is embedded in an agricultural landscape. Trailheads are located within the five linked rural communities, making the trail easily accessible for local use, in addition to being close to accommodations, restaurants and other recreational opportunities. The Nature Coast State Trail provides a scenic experience for runners, walkers, bikers and skaters. Equestrian riders can enjoy trails that parallel some portions of the paved trail. Currently, parking for equestrians can be found at the Fanning Springs and Old Town trailheads.
Several significant land and water resources exist in the vicinity of the Nature Coast State Trail. They include: Suwannee River, Fanning Springs, Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve, Manatee Springs State Park, "City of Hawkinsville" Underwater Archaeological Preserve, Andrews Wildlife Management Area, Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve, Waccasassa Bay State Preserve, Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, Jena Wildlife Management Area, Gulf Hammock Wildlife Management Area, and Goethe State Forest. Other public lands are found to the west and south of the Nature Coast State Trail including the Fanning Springs State Recreation Area, Manatee Springs State Park and Andrews Wildlife Management Area. Between Trenton and Cross City, to the north of Fanning Springs, the trail crosses the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail.
In December, 2010, the State officially took ownership of a 9.33-mile corridor, known as the Trenton-Newberry Rail-Trail project, which will ultimately serve as an extension of the Nature Coast State Trail. "Extending the reach and connectivity of this scenic rail-trail, which already serves more than 140,000 annual visitors, will add to its attraction for nature-based tourism," said Jim Wood, Assistant Director of the Office of Greenways & Trails.
The rail-trail project begins at the Trenton Depot trailhead and ends three miles from the town of Newberry, traversing Gilchrist County to connect with existing sections of the NCST in Dixie and Levy Counties. DEP's Division of State Lands negotiated this purchase with the Trust for Public Land, which had entered into a purchase option agreement with CSX Transportation. The acquisition was approved for purchase by the State in June, 2010, with Florida Forever funds allocated to DEP's Office of Greenways & Trails.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Greenways and Trails Nature Coast State Trail 18020 Northwest Highway 19, Fanning Springs, FL 32693 (35) 535-5181 Website: www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/state/...