The Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park (formerly Charlotte Harbor State Buffer Preserve) is comprised of approximately 42,518 acres located in Lee and Charlotte Counties. Approximately 7,000 acres are uplands and 35,518 acres are wetlands and open waters. The Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park (CHPSP) is an important factor in the protection of nationally significant estuarine habitats within the greater Charlotte Harbor area. Preserve lands were obtained through land acquisition projects to provide a buffer between urban areas and/or agricultural lands and the Aquatic Preserves within the Charlotte Harbor estuary including Lemon Bay, Gasparilla Sound / Charlotte Harbor, Cape Haze, Pine Island Sound, and Matlacha Pass. CHPSP consists of parcels that are adjacent to approximately 70 miles of shoreline and a number of islands that have been divided into the following resource management areas: Cape Haze, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Cape Coral, and Pine Island. These lands and waters are managed to ensure that their natural and cultural resource values may endure for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.
The park lands were initially acquired through the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program (EEL) in the 1970’s and continued with the Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) program. Additional lands were acquired under the Save Our Rivers program and more recently under the Florida Forever program. The park was originally named the Charlotte Harbor State Reserve was later renamed Charlotte Harbor State Buffer Preserve and then in 2004, the DEP reorganized several programs and the management of the preserve was transferred to the Division of Recreation and Parks (DRP) and it is now called the Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park.
Vegetation Communities: Natural communities occurring within CHPSP include the following: pine flatwoods, scrub, scrubby flatwoods, oak / cabbage palm hammock, tropical hardwood hammock, salt marsh, salt flats, freshwater marsh, and mangrove forest.
Location: CHPSP administrative offices are located at 12301 Burnt Store Road (County Road 765) in Punta Gorda. The entrance is approximately 2.5 miles south of the US 41 and Burnt Store Road intersection.
Northbound and southbound travelers on I – 75 may take Exit 161 (Old 28 / Jones Loop Road) off the interstate and head west on Jones Loop Rd. to US 41. Drive through the US 41 intersection onto Burnt Store Road (County Road 765) and continue driving south past Eagle Point Trailer Park and the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center (CHEC). The Preserve office is approximately 1.5 miles south of the CHEC site on the west side of Burnt Store Rd. The entrance is marked by signs. Tall cedar trees line the road leading back to the buildings.
Amenities: CHPSP field office is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. The Old Datsun Trail, located off of Burnt Store Road immediately north of the Preserve entrance, is open to the public from dawn to dusk. A small paved parking lot in front of the trailhead can accommodate four cars. Visitors may also park at the office and walk back to the trailhead during regular weekly business hours. There are no public restrooms or water available at this site. However, brochures and educational materials are available in the reception area of the main office, and there is a picnic table near the trailhead of the Old Datsun Trail. Fishing, wildlife viewing, hiking, and nature study are available at the Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park. There are many opportunities for boating and canoeing in the waters of the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves. Canoeing or kayaking in the quiet backwaters provides increased opportunities for birdwatching. For more information about CHPSP, additional public access points, and guided walks, please call the Preserve office at 941-575-5861.
Old Datsun Trail: This 1.75 mile loop trail winds through pine flatwoods and oak / cabbage palm hammocks. There are two isolated wetlands just off of the trail where wading birds may be observed. The site has an interesting history of old field succession. Originally pine flatwoods, the area was cleared and farmed as row crops until the 1950s. Slash pines and a tangled understory of grasses, shrubs, and vines have reclaimed the land over the past 50 years. Hammocks provide an abundance of shade, and rest benches are located throughout this trail. Once severely impacted by the construction of drainage ditches and infested with invasive Brazilian pepper, this site is now functioning as a wetland, having undergone extensive exotic removal and hydrological restoration. Feral hogs are present. Guided walks may be scheduled during the late fall, winter, and spring by advance registration through the CHPSP field office. Group tours may also be arranged. Caution: Poison ivy, commonly recognized by its three leaves, is present along the sides of the trail.
Animal Species: You may not be able to see all these species
Birds that you may encounter year-round include:
The Old Datsun Trail and Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park in proximity to the trail are well known for the following birds: Red-Shouldered Hawk Swallow-Tailed Kite Pileated Woodpecker Screech Owl Chuck-Will’s Widow
The more common birds that you will likely encounter include the following: Anhinga Northern Bobwhite Cardinal Gray Catbird Sandhill Crane Fish Crow Common Ground Dove Mourning Dove Mottled Duck Bald Eagle Cattle Egret Great Egret Snowy Egret Great Crested Flycatcher Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Boat-tailed Grackle Common Grackle Cooper’s Hawk Red-tailed Hawk Great Blue Heron Green-backed Heron Little Blue Heron Tricolored Heron Glossy Ibis White Ibis Osprey Ovenbird Great Horned Owl Eastern Phoebe Redstart American Robin Loggerhead Shrike Roseate Spoonbill Wood Stork Tree Swallow Chimney Swift Blue-winged Teal Brown Thrasher Rufous-sided Towhee Wild Turkey Red-eyed Vireo White-eyed Vireo Black Vulture Turkey Vulture Black-and-White Warbler Black-throated Blue Warbler Palm Warbler Yellow-rumped Warbler Downy Woodpecker Hairy Woodpecker Red-bellied Woodpecker Carolina Wren Greater Yellowlegs Common Yellowthroat
Documented Mammals: Armadillo (Exotic, Invasive) Bobcat White-tailed Deer Gray Fox Feral Hog (Exotic, Invasive) River Otter Eastern Cottontail Rabbit Raccoon Eastern Woodrat Gray Squirrel
Documented Herps: Alligator Southern Black Racer Eastern Coachwhip Eastern Indigo Snake Gopher Tortoise Gulf Coast Box Turtle Green Anole