This outstanding coastal site is a treasure trove of biological diversity; it protects significant surface water, recreational, archaeological, botanical and wildlife resources. Much of the property is a mosaic of pine flatwoods interspersed with freshwater swamp and marsh; scrub, grasslands, salt marsh, tidal creek and dune ridge/swale habitats are present as well. Multiple access points and more than 10 miles of dirt roads and multi-use trails permit you to explore as little or as much as you like (portions of trails may be wet at times, so wear appropriate shoes or boots). For a quick introduction to the preserve, start at the Island Gate trailhead, which has 1.4 miles of loop trails. For a longer sojourn, begin at the South Gate trailhead (7.7 miles of loop and spur trails) on CR 30. The South Gate trails connect to an even larger network which can also be accessed from the Main Gate trailhead, across from the preserve’s welcome center on SR 30A. From the welcome center’s viewing tower by the bay, watch for Osprey, Bald Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk. In winter, Black Scoters and Common Loons, can be found in the bay. Breeding songbirds include Brown-headed Nuthatch, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Bachman’s Sparrow. Spring and fall are excellent times to visit; 37 species of warblers have been recorded. Butterfly watching is good; look for Common Wood-Nymph, Variegated Fritillary and Gray Hairstreak. Guided tram tours are offered; call ahead for details. Note: While the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve buildings are currently closed for repairs due to Hurricane Michael, other public areas withing the Preserve (hiking, biking, horseback riding trails) are all open and available for use.