Open from sunrise to sunset, the Jones Swamp Wetland Preserve protects 1,300 acres of wetland and upland habitat in the watershed of Jones Creek, the largest of the three major freshwater inputs to Bayou Chico. Its greatest significance is as an ecological preserve and a hydrological buffer in the heavily developed Pensacola Bay basin, but a nature trail in its eastern reach also makes it a fantastic place to explore a rare swath of natural Pensacola.
The Preserve is part of Escambia County’s ambitious restoration efforts within the Bayou Chico watershed; after passing through Jones Swamp and urbanized Warrington, Jones Creek widens into the southwestern arm of the bayou, which empties into Pensacola Bay.
More than half of the Jones Swamp Wetland Preserve is occupied by—surprise—wetlands, which are both some of the most biologically diverse and ecologically critical ecosystems in Florida and some of the most threatened by development and pollution. The Preserve includes hardwood, cypress, and bay swamps as well as bottomland forest and wet prairies. Upland portions of the Preserve are dominated by pinewoods.
Plant lovers will have a heyday on the well-developed Jones Swamp Trail, a mix of boardwalks and well-graded surface tread accessing a nice variety of the Preserve’s habitats, including riparian communities, bottomland forest, wet pine Flatwoods, and gum ponds. So will birdwatchers, who have a rich lineup of songbirds, waterfowl, waders, and raptors to look for along the way.
There are five main trailheads for the Jones Swamp Wetland Preserve: 700 S. Old Corry Road, 402 N. Navy Blvd., 198 Patton Drive, 1131 Patton Drive, and 1190 Decatur Avenue. The Old Corry Road, N. Navy Blvd., and Decatur Avenue trailheads include handicap-accessible parking.
Plans are underway to expand trail access in the western part of Jones Swamp Preserve as part of an under-development Southwest Escambia County Greenway. When complete, this Southwest Greenway will span some 12 miles and link Lexington Terrace Parkway along Bayou Chico with the Tarklin Bayou Preserve State Park—which fronts Perdido Bay and is famed for its carnivorous pitcher plants (also found in Jones Swamp)—and with Big Lagoon State Park to the south. This’ll be a great resource for outdoor recreation in the Pensacola area. The trail system in the western part of Jones Swamp Wetland Preserve is expected to be a more rustic affair than the boardwalk-linked eastern portion on the other side of Fairfield Drive.
Whether you come armed with a plant guide or a bird guide (maybe both), or you’re just indulging in a half-hour of quiet amid life-filled backwaters and sunny pinewoods, Jones Swamp Wetland Preserve is a jewel: a precious and important natural oasis within easy reach of downtown Pensacola that provides refuge to native plants and wildlife, filters water draining into Pensacola Bay, and accommodates a wonderful nature trail with an exciting extension planned for the near future.
– As you might imagine given the extensive wetland habitat, Jones Swamp Wetland Preserve supports a healthy mosquito population, so dress accordingly and bring insect repellent (along with sun protection and plenty of water).