Orange County
1650 acres (667 hectares)

In the town of Christmas in northeastern Orange County, north of State Road 50 and extending east to Seminole Ranch Conservation Area. Contiguous with a part of the Upper St. Johns River Basin IBA to the east and south, and west of the St. Johns National Wildlife Refuge IBA.

The world's first large-scale artificial wastewater ?polishing? facility that filters nitrogen and phosphorus from highly treated wastewater through 17 marsh cells before its discharge (17?40 days later) into the St. Johns River. Water quality released from the Park is ?statistically equal? to that in the St. Johns River both upstream and downstream of the discharge point +(EPA 1993). Up to 40 million gallons (151 million liters) of water can be treated daily. The site was a cattle ranch when purchased in 1984 and historically was St. Johns River floodplain marsh. Since acquisition, over 2 million native aquatic plants and 200,000 native trees have been planted. A 410-acre (165-hectare) deep marsh composed mostly of cattail and ?giant bulrush (Scirpus californicus), accomplishes nutrient removal. A 380-acre (153-hectare) mixed marsh of more than 60 herbaceous species provides additional nutrient removal and wildlife habitat. A 400-acre (161-hectare) hardwood swamp serves primarily as wildlife habitat. The Park receives 10,000 recreationists annually and 200 hunters during the winter, when the Park is closed to the public. Pets, swimming, boating, fishing, camping, horses, and open fires are prohibited. Motorized vehicles also are prohibited except for group tours. The Park was previously known as Orlando Wilderness Park.

Other listed species that occur onsite include American alligator, indigo snake, ?Sherman's? fox squirrel, black bear, and 16 plants.

Ornithological Summary

significant populations of Endangered, Special Concern, and FCREPA species, significant numbers of wading birds; and significant natural habitats

The Park supports significant populations of roosting wading birds, and lesser numbers of breeding wading birds, wintering waterfowl, and wintering and migrant shorebirds. The park also contains perhaps the only native-substrate breeding colony of Purple Martins in Florida; discovered in 1993, the colony now numbers several dozen pairs nesting in cabbage palm snags. In 1996, one pair of Snail Kites bred at the Park, the northernmost breeding location in Florida since the 1930s.

Conservation Issues

exotic plants, feral hogs

The site will continue to be managed to ?polish? nutrients from treated wastewater. Secondary uses are to provide wildlife habitat and passive recreation. Previous owners maintain a waterfowl hunting lease on the property until 2035. ? Feral hogs and exotic plants, primarily ?Peruvian primrosewillow (Ludwigia peruviana) and common water-hyacinth, are controlled as needed. ? Water quality is monitored continuously


City of Orlando


*freshwater marsh, *cattail marsh, *temperate hammock, lacustrine, fields

Land Use

*wastewater filtering facility, conservation, environmental education, recreation, hunting

Stay abreast of Audubon

Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives.