Oscar Scherer State Park
South Creek, at Oscar Scherer State Park
Oscar Scherer State Park is a 1,400-acre property on the heavily developed coast of Florida between Venice and Sarasota. The property preserves a nice piece of rare Florida pine scrub habitat: pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods and a hardwood hammock around South Creek (a blackwater stream that empties into the Gulf of Mexico). In some areas of Oscar Scherer State Park you'll also find wild grape, persimmon, blueberry, coontie, cabbage palm, prickly pear cactus, giant leather fern, wax myrtle and mangrove.
Oscar Scherer State Park is large enough to support a healthy population of the rare Florida scrub jay, in addition to the foxes, rabbits, bobcats, alligators, gopher frogs, gopher tortoises and river otters who hang out here. You might also see bald eagles, ospreys, woodpeckers, egrets, warblers, and little blue and great blue herons.
Lake Osprey is only about 3 acres in size but it does contain a good population of bluegill, bream, channel catfish and largemouth bass.
For amenities there's a visitor center with interpretive exhibits. You can also go bicycling, hiking (15 miles of developed trails), fishing, canoeing, kayaking, snorkeling, swimming and wildlife viewing. Motorized boats are not allowed but canoe and kayak rentals are available. There are also full-facility campsites and a youth/group camping area. On Thursdays, the Friends of Oscar Scherer State Park and the local Audubon Society often offer guided bird walks. On Wednesday mornings, there's a ranger who often offers guided canoe trips on South Creek.
Oscar Scherer State Park is open for day use from 8 am to sunset, every day of the year. To get there: Oscar Scherer State Park is located about 2 miles south of Osprey on US Highway 41.
The swim beach on Lake Osprey
Photos of scrub jay and South Creek courtesy of Karen Lueck, Florida State Parks