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