Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Sarasota Oasis: Red Bug Slough


How many times have you driven by something - a store, park, restaurant, anything - and said, "Oh yeah, I need to check that place out!"

For me, that place was Red Bug Slough Preserve, and I drove by it twice a day for roughly three months. After that, I drove by it four times a week for a year. Finally last week, with this blog as my catalyst, I got in the car, drove the whopping 3.8 miles and found a great park that I couldn't believe I'd been missing out on!



Entrance sign at Red Bug Slough
Entrance sign at Red Bug Slough

Getting there

The official address and main entrance of Red Bug Slough Preserve is 5200 Beneva RdYou can find a handful of walk-through entrances from surrounding neighborhoods, as well as a fairly visible entrance from Proctor Rd, but the entrance from Beneva Rd has the only parking area I could find. The main entrance doesn't seem like much from the road - just a small sign and parking lot with a well-kept playground - but once you set out on the trails, you will hardly believe you are still in the middle of Sarasota!

At this point, I’d like to state for the record that I am not a hiker. In fact, I prefer “trails” of paved variety as opposed to the wooded kind where I may encounter any creature with more than two legs. Luckily for me, Red Bug Slough features both wooded trails & a bricked walkway! So in the name of blogging and exploration, I set out to see all that the preserve had to offer.



Trails

Trail at Red Bug Slough
Caught up in the spirit of adventure, I hit the wooded trails first. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the trails were wide and well-marked (thank you, Sarasota County!), which made it virtually impossible for me to get lost. The ground was primarily pine-straw and packed dirt, so unless your goal is dirty feet, I would forego the flops this time and opt for sneakers instead. Also, in case there is any confusion, allow me to confirm that Florida – everywhere in Florida – is flat, so you will definitely be overdressed if you rock the hiking boots on this trail.

Trail at Red Bug SloughAs a side note, it was pretty amazing how quiet it was after walking just 10 feet into the trail. It was L-O-V-E-L-Y. All noise from the street was completely blocked out so I could hear birds chirping, squirrels scurrying and other woodland creatures (I was imagining more along the lines of Snow White forest animals, as opposed to their slithery, slimy cousins!) moving about. But I digress...


Brick path at Red Bug Slough
Getting back to the trails, they go for a good distance before you reach a point where you can continue on to the northern half of the park, or loop around and head back south (I couldn’t figure out the exact mileage from this trail map, but maybe you can?). I was getting hot at this point, so I took the loop and made my way down another trail. After a brief trek, I came out at a clearing that connected to a nice bricked walkway, which I followed all the way back to Beneva Rd, just south of the main entrance.



Sights

Beside just nature groovin’ through the woods, there are also some pretty great sights along the way. I, for one, believe that no park is complete without a lake, and Red Bug Slough does not disappoint. After the quick trail walk from the parking lot, the area opens up to a wide expanse of grass (good for Frisbee throwing!) with a lake that extends about ¾ of the way through the park. Continuing around the side of the lake and along its edge leads to five trail entrances.

In addition to the tree canopy and pretty flowers throughout the wooded areas, I also came upon a really cool looking tree, which appeared to be home to some very large birds. John (my husband, trail buddy and regular partner-in-crime) informed me that they were turkey buzzards; however, since neither of us is an ornithologist, I’m going to say they were bald eagles. :)


Get going

So there you have it! If you're looking for a way to enjoy the beautiful outdoors of Sarasota for a few hours (and don't want to spend any money doing it!), I would definitely recommend Red Bug Slough. Now without further ado...take a hike!

Happy Trails

Steph


Additional Info

Red Bug Slough Preserve
5200 Beneva Road, Sarasota, FL
72 acres
Cost: Free
Hours: April through October - 7:30am to 8:00pm
           November through March - 7:30am to 6:00pm
Pets: Allowed on leash

Another trail
Long side of lake

Pretty flowers
Bird tree house







15 comments:

  1. I'm always amazed at how many parks/hiking trails there are around Sarasota. I'm emailing link to this post to Jim as we will definitely put this one on our "to to" list. Wonder where it got its name?

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    1. I actually wondered, too! Apparently, the "red bug" it's named after is the Dysdercus Suturellus (aka. cotton stainer bug). It used to be prevalent in FL when there was a lot of cotton farming. The bug would feed on the cotton and leave yellow & brown marks (hence how it got it's nickname). :)

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  2. Great memories from that place. I have walked a dog or two through there. I have never seen more than five people there at a time, but have not been there in several months. Great choice for a local only haunt. Good job.

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    1. I think we only came across 3 other people during our whole trek. It was awesome having a park almost entirely to ourselves! Do you know of any good dog parks? A friend of mine was looking for one in Sarasota not long ago, but I didn't know of any.

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  3. I grew up here in Sarasota and I have NEVER been to Red Bug Slough! Have you been to Rothenbach Park? It's the Sarasota DUMP and it's an AMAZING park. With that description I bet you're dying to go but I promise the only smell is that of grass and fresh air. It's also fun to visit the pet shelter near by.

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    1. You should check it out! I haven't heard of Rothenbach Park, but I'm Googling right now. I do worry that I might come back with another cat if I visit the pet shelter, though!

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  4. I love Red Bug Slough! Does that mean I'm a local? ;-) We drove by it for years before one day we finally decided to stop and we were shocked at how big it was. Another great place is the Legacy Bike Trail (http://www.sarasotalegacytrail.com/) you can bike it or they even offer free surrey rides!

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    1. That TOTALLY makes you a local! :) I also love the Legacy Trail. I live close by so I run it in the summer when it stays light past 6pm. But I've never heard of the surrey rides...I don't even know what a surrey ride IS but now I've got to find out!

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  5. I'm excited to go there one day soon. I love going for walks and it's a nice way to spend the day doing something that doesn't cost money.

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    1. I always say, "If it's free, it's for me!" Just one of the many reasons I love parks. This one is toward South Sarasota, though, but stay tuned for more in the north part of town soon!

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  6. I just heard about this place on the radio on my way to work yesterday. Had never heard of it before and have a friend in Tampa that I share a mutual 'red bug' joke with so I meant to send her an FB on this park. I have another friend in Tampa who teaches people how to camp (for those like me who don't know how and prefer hotels); and wanted to share this park with her, too. I think I need to get on FB right now and do this before I forget again! Looks just beautiful! Thanks for sharing, Stephanie! M

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    1. Ha! I'd love to hear your 'red bug' joke! Unfortunately, there's actually not any camping at Red Bug Slough, but you should check out https://www.scgov.net/parks/Pages/CampingWeekends.aspx . It's the Sarasota County website & has some good info about camping. And I know there are campsites at Myakka State Park, which is also a really cool place to visit.

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  7. I will say that after learning through boy scouts how hot it gets in Florida, this is probably something I would only do in "winter" time here. Looks like a great place though.

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    1. I was definitely hot when walking in the open areas, but the wooded parts are pretty well covered. There was just enough light getting through the branches to make it easy to see, but also enough cover to keep it pretty cool. I do plan on going back though, so I'll let you know what summer feels like at the Slough!

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