The Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is one of my favorite spots to spend some time outdoors. It is primarily Pine Flatwoods but, there is enough variety to make it interesting almost any time of the year. The site has a number of natural and artificial water elements which help wildlife during the dry times. This is a small excavated pond just off Tram Grade. It is virtually invisible from the road and is a great place to sit and wait for wildlife.
The WMA is made up of approximately 92,000 acres of which 17,000 acres are open public access all year round and called the recreational area. This includes rustic camping spaces which are busy in the hunting seasons. The remaining area is only open to vehicles during hunting season. Because of it’s size, Babcock-Webb will take a number of posts to cover. With each I will cover a different route through the WMA.
There is only one entrance which is on Tuckers Grade near Exit 158 of Interstate 75. It is only a few miles south of Punta Gorda.
The wildlife begins right at the entrance. The entry, where an nominal fee is charged, is between two marl ponds. I often see Common Moorhens on this pond and the occasional gator can be seen on the grade in the middle. Since the entrance is busy, these shy birds usually run off but can still be found if it is quiet.
Just after the entrance you can turn right onto a fully paved 7 mile road which runs along the side of Webb Lake. There are numerous pulloffs with picnic tables and boat ramps (no gasoline engines allowed). This is a good place to stop and watch water birds. The sun will be in your face in the morning but, evening makes for some good photo ops with Osprey and waders. There is also a goodly population of Double-Crested Cormorants on the lake. In 2009 they did a planned drawdown of the lake for maintenance purposes and to simulate a drought to control some of the plants. This winding, paved road is popular with cyclists so please be careful.
Morning is still great for some spectacular sunrises.
If you go straight on Tuckers Grade the road is paved until you reach the Gun Range after which it is a hard shell road for some miles. The first intersection you will find is with Oilwell Grade and that’s going to be a future post.