Paraners Branch Loop Trail in O’leno State Park

Santa Fe River, Oleno State Park, FL, December 2021

I visited O’leno State Park during a foggy, overcast day. My plan was to try Paraners Branch Loop Trail, which I missed during my last visit. I crossed the swinging bridge and stopped to take some pictures along the water.

I then took River Trail. After following yellow trail markers for a time, I turned left onto Paraners Branch Loop, or the green trail.


This 4.4 mile trail crosses through pine and scrub forest and around several sink holes. Although not as scenic as River Trail, it’s an easy and pleasant 4.4 mile hike.

North Florida is having record-breaking temperatures, with mid-December highs in the 80s (27˚C). I encountered a young toad and a fresh snake-shed, suggesting that some animals are taking advantage of the warm days.

Part of a snake shed noticed along the trail.
Its length a dark, longitudinal strip suggests
it was cast by a Ratsnake.

I found the shed in two pieces. The tail section was about 18 inches (46 cm) and had a dark stripe running its length, indicating a Ratsnake. The second section was wider and folded into itself. I was slowly unfolding it when I was overcome by the stench of decay. Throwing down my find, a Flesh Fly immediately investigated.


A Flesh Fly investigates the decaying
second half of the shed.

I also noticed something that looked like a bird dropping on the underside of a leaf. But it was by itself and hanging in a way that suggested an insect. A mimic? I snapped several shots of the 1 cm spot for identification at home. (Post revealing ID)

I noticed some Turkey Tail Mushrooms, which seemed appreciative of the damp air.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms
O’leno State Park, High Springs, FL

Throughout O’leno State Park, dark water projects captivating reflections.

While on River Trail, I revisited some sinkholes and “my” turtle buds.

As I admired one of the sinks, a large American Bird Grasshopper landed a few feet in front of me. It waited patiently as I pulled out my camera and adjusted its settings.

American Bird Grasshopper
Schistocerca americana

Before leaving for the day, I attempted to photograph the park’s picnic area. However, since the tables are spread far apart, I couldn’t capture how inviting it is. Instead, I photographed a nearby stand of cypress along the Santa Fe River.

O’leno State Park is at 410 S.E. O’Leno Park Road in High Springs, Florida.

To access the River Trail loop, walk from the parking lot and across the picnic grounds, toward the Santa Fe River. Then, look for the swinging bridge  and a big log cabin.

Trailhead, River Trail, O’leno State Park, FL

Cross the bridge and continue walking straight onto River Trail. Or, follow the trail that passes in front of the log building. This joins/becomes River Trail.

Paraners Branch Loop Trail is accessed via River Trail. There are several entrance points, all of which are clearly marked.

Published by cafsamsel

Carol Fullerton-Samsel is a nearly-native Floridian who lives with her husband of 25 years and three rescue animals. She is an English tutor with a passion for day-hiking and nature. Be sure to visit the TenPaths YouTube channel, which is still in its infancy.

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