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Orlando Wetlands Festival - February

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Orlando Wetlands
Christmas, Florida

25155 Wheeler Rd., Christmas, FL 32709-9257
Go North on Fort Christmas Road,
past Fort Christmas,
then right on Wheeler Road to the Park.

OPEN: Tuesday - Sunday, open sunrise to sunset
Open on all holidays (unless otherwise stated).


Important Notices!

Starting Monday, October 2, 2023, the Orlando Wetlands will be closed to the public on all Mondays. This will facilitate our ability to maintain water quality, the wetlands environment, and give our wildlife a rest from visitors. Thank you for your support!

You may have noticed that we've recently dropped the word "park" from our name. We are now simply called the Orlando Wetlands. Why, you may ask? This is to more accurately reflect our mission as an advanced water reclamation facility and to better communicate this to the public.

Orlando Wetlands Newsletter
July - September, 2023: Volume 11, Issue 4

Orlando Wetlands Park Boaedwalk

Boardwalk Grand Opening: Monday, December 19, 2022 at 10:30am. Mayor Dyer will cut the ribbon and all who are gathered will be able to walk across the new deck.

The new Boardwalk was made possible with financial assistance from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection - Recreational Trails Grant program. Amcon Development Corporation is the contractor who constructed the 2,200' long elevated boardwalk.

The Orlando Wetlands Park is a man-made wetland designed to provide advanced treatment for reclaimed water from the City of Orlando and other local cities. The Park is 1650 acres in size and located in Christmas, Florida. Visitors can visit the Park seven days a week, between sunrise and sunset, to enjoy primitive and passive activities including:
• Photography • Wildlife viewing • Hiking • Biking (non-motorized) • Horseback riding • Guided Tours

October, 2021

Visitors Center Progress

New Visitors Center in progres. Construction on the new Visitors Center is continuing to progress. The building was anticipated to open in Spring of 2021. However, due to various circumstances, it is now projected to open in Spring of 2022.

Some unique features of the new building will be a covered wrap around porch with bench seating made from trees salvaged from the Wetlands Park. The porch will also feature animal tracks stamped into the concrete. Inside, a vaulted ceiling with clerestory windows will let in natural light help to illuminate the main exhibit space.

Exhibits (shown) are in process of being built and will incorporate reclaimed materials such as cedar wood and cypress trees salvaged from the Wetlands Park.

We look forward to opening the new Visitors Center and sharing it with you in the very near future!

July 1, 2020
The Wetlands Park is open for passive recreational use. Please follow safe social distancing protocols while visiting the Park. All tours remain cancelled and the Education Center (EC) is closed until further notice. Visit our website for the most up-to-date information.

In December of 2015, the City of Orlando purchased the remaining 22 years' worth of hunting rights, appraised at $400,000. Beginning February 1st of 2016, the park will be open year round. Now, more visitors will be able to experience and learn about the unique and valuable role of the Orlando Wetlands Park in helping to polish reclaimed water and protect downstream waterways and wetland ecosystems. We are excited that this opportunity enables us to share with more people how environmental conservation and public works operations can work hand in hand at the Orlando Wetlands Park. Come visit us and spread the word — we are now open year round.

Click for gallery & enlargements The Orlando Wetlands Park is great place to visit, relax, get back to nature and enjoy the scenic sunsets. Nature enthusiasts will be greeted by 1,650 acres of hardwood hammocks, marshes and scenic lakes. The Orlando Wetlands Park has more than 20 miles of roads and woodland trails suitable for hiking. The most popular activities include bird-watching, photography, jogging and bicycling. More than 220 different species of birds have been observed at this site. The Orlando Wetlands Park has become a model for other communities throughout Florida.

Area History

Click for gallery & enlargements Settlers began moving to the Christmas area after the conclusion of the many Seminole Wars in the late 1830s. The Army under the command of Brig. General Abraham Eustis built Fort Christmas just west of this area in 1837 near the site of the Seminole encampment, Powell's Town. Later, the area became an open range for cattle grazing after the Civil War. In the early 1900's, the red cedar trees were harvested for the durable wood suitable for manufacturing wood furniture, construction and fence posts. Pine trees were tapped for turpentine, and later, logged for lumber. A dairy farm was established on the Wetlands Park property in the 1940s.

Wetlands Operation

Click for gallery & enlargements The Iron Bridge Regional WRF was constructed in 1979 by the City of Orlando with a mandate from the U.S.E.P.A. to consolidate several wastewater treatment facilities and to expand the available sewer capacity in the area. However, regional facility needed more effluent disposal capacity by the mid-1980s. An innovative solution to this situation was to develop a man-made wetlands system for the reuse of the highly treated effluent from the regional treatment facility. The City of Orlando purchased 1,650 acres in 1986 at a cost of $5,128,000 near Fort Christmas for this purpose. The 1,220 acre man-made wetland treatment system was completed in July 1987 with the conversion of the former pasture areas into wetlands.

Click for gallery & enlargements The system was designed with a hydraulic capacity of 35 million gallons a day of reclaimed wastewater. The water is conveyed through a four-foot diameter pipeline approximately 17 miles to the influent distribution structure for the wetlands. Seventeen cells and three distinct wetland communities were created to remove residual amounts of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, from the reclaimed water. The ecological communities include deep marsh areas, mixed marsh and wet prairie and hardwood - cypress swamps. The site planted with 2.3 million aquatic plants, including 200,000 trees, to create the man-made wetlands. A lake is contained within one of the cells.

Click for gallery & enlargements The reclaimed water begins its 40-day journey through the Wetlands Park at the influent distribution structure, which is located near the western most edge of the property, just north of Wheeler Road, and in close proximity to the Influent Observation Deck. The reclaimed water meanders through the various habitats and eventually arrives at the two outfall structures for the wetland system. The flow leaves the Orlando Wetlands Park via a canal and flows into the St Johns River.

Click for gallery & enlargements The function of the influent structure is to distribute the reclaimed water among the three flow paths through the wetland system. The reclaimed water flows first into the cells with the deep marsh habitat, which consists primarily of monocultures with either cattails or giant bulrush. Afterwards, the flow is routed through the mixed marsh and wet prairie cells containing thick growths of pickeralweed, duck potato and other aquatic shrubs. These areas are favored by the wading birds and migratory waterfowl. The final habitat in the wetland system is the hardwood swamp.

Click for gallery & enlargementsCypress, popash, tupelo and water hickories dominate within these cells. However, due to the constant high water levels, the trees have stunted growth and this habitat typically mirrors the deep marsh areas. A 100 acre lake is part of the central and southern flow paths through the wetland system.

The outflow is sampled every day and the results are reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the St. Johns River Water Management District.On average, the wetland system removes about 64% of the total nitrogen and approximately 74% of the total phosphorus in the reclaimed water. The wetlands outflow remains consistently lower than the background levels of phosphorus that are found in the St Johns River.

Wildlife & Birds

Click for gallery & enlargements The open waters of the lake and marshes attract wintering waterfowl, including blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, common moorhens and American coots. Wood storks, white ibis, black-crowned night herons, and other wading birds are common during the cooler months. Bald eagles, limpkins, and red-shouldered hawks, black vultures, and turkey vultures are year round residents in the Orlando Wetlands Park. Raccoons, river otters, white-tailed deer and bobcats can be seen along the roads and hiking trails. The Orlando Wetlands is home to over 30 species of wildlife that are listed on the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission's Threatened and Endangered Wildlife list.

Park Hours

Click for gallery & enlargements The Park is open from Sunrise until Sunset. Now open year around.

Friends of the Orlando Wetlands logo.

The Friends of the Orlando Wetlands (FOW) is a citizen support organization for the City of Orlando's Orlando Wetlands Park. Its mission is to work with the City of Orlando in providing educational opportunities to increase community awareness, support, and appreciation of the park and its wildlife.

The volunteer efforts include: hosting at the Orlando Wetlands Park Education Center, interpreting nature at the wetlands, including tram tours, developing educational materials for park visitors, maintaining the Education Center and its adjacent wildlife garden, conducting research on wetlands flora and fauna, and assisting at special events such as the annual Orlando Wetlands Festival.

To learn more about the Park, please visit the following websites:

If you need any additional information, please write or call:
Orlando Wetlands Park
25155 Wheeler Road
Christmas, Florida 32709
Phone: 407-568-1706
Fax: 407-568-1725

Orlando Wetlands Park Directions Map