Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is part of the Greater Everglades and located in Palm Beach County. For our Miami visitors perhaps a bit of a trek, but it offers many of the wildlife viewing opportunities and beautiful landscapes as the more famous Everglades National Park without the crowds and in a more peaceful and quieter environment.
What do you find here? Easy walking paths with lots of wildlife, a boardwalk that goes through a cypress swamp, biking along the canals, a fishing dock and scenic canoe trails.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Refuge is a research facility, one of the main purposes is the conservation and restoration of the Everglades and its wildlife.
It provides a habitat for migratory birds, endangered species and many native plants and animals.
You get to walk around the management impoundments and will probably have a chance to witness the many water flow and control activities throughout the Refuge (some can be very noisy).
The main access area for visitors is the Headquarters Area:
|Visitor Center||Cypress Swamp Boardwalk|
|Marsh Trail||Kayak/Canoe Rental and Launch|
|Fishing Dock||Biking Trails|
Entrance to the Refuge is on Lee Road off US441 between Boynton Beach Boulevard and Atlantic Boulevard.
You find the Visitor Center at the Headquarters Area, this is the main access area for guests, and similar as other National Parks, it is stocked with lots of information, beautiful and educational wildlife exhibits, dioramas and even a simulation Airboat ride through the Everglades, (with fans providing a windy ride!), and the super helpful rangers and volunteers always willing to share in their knowledge and love for the area.
This should be your first stop, get a map and an orientation and decide on a plan for your visit.
Right behind the Visitor Center there is a short boardwalk that loops around a cypress swamp and a sea of lush vegetation. Graceful ferns and colorful bromeliads spill from every knick and crany all around you. It is a very beautiful and easy walk, allow about a half-hour and bring mosquito repellent.
There is also a pond at the start of the walk, next to the Visitor Center, watch out for birds and maybe otters.
The vegetation and giant cypress trees are the star of the show at this 0.4 mile trek, not so much the animal or birdlife, although always keep an eye out for owls and woodpeckers. If it is wildlife you are looking for, head over to the Marsh Trail.
If you continue down the road from the Visitor Center, not far from it is the start of the marsh trail. The area is divided into rectangular individual management impoundments with grass levees in between to walk around. There are educational displays and benches and pavillions to rest, as well as viewing towers and platforms.
The Marsh Trail goes around the first square or impoundment, the trail itself is 0.8 miles, allow an hour or two if you're stopping for pictures like we usually do or spend as much time as you like. You could instead just head south instead of on a loop, walk all the way to the end or as far as you wish. This North/South stretch is about one mile.
The trails are great viewing areas for wading birds, specially if you come during the dry season, roughly November through April. You will see all sorts of wildlife along the canals and levees, and throughout the marshy area.
Roughly 250 species of birds have been observed in the Refuge, get a checklist at the Visitor Center which is quite informative and gives you an idea of which species are seen more frequently during which season.
Some nest on the refuge and are year-round residents, abundant during most seasons like the majestic Great Blue Heron...
Great Blue Heron
And the beautiful and graceful Egrets which you see alongside the canals, flying overhead, in the marshes...
If you look closely, Little Green Herons are usually perched in the branches close to the water...
Little Green Heron
And so are the Little Blue Herons, sometimes so well camouflaged it is hard to see them unless they move!
Little Blue Heron
Those red-faced little black waterbirds are Coots, permanently darting around in the water, gliding among the lily pads and alongside the turtles...
And up on the trees drying their feathers, Anhingas are a frequent sight.
Also common but perhaps not so abundant is the Limpkin, with its characteristic brownish tinge and curved bill...
And there's of course the Ibis, Cormorants, the endangered Wood Stork which also nests in the refuge, and if you're lucky, the occasional Roseate Spoonbill.
In the non-feathery category, watch out for all sorts of creatures... we had an alligator greet us at the start of the Marsh Trail once, there it was, just crossing the path right in front of us, minding his own business... this is such an amazing place!
Done wandering? There is still much to explore, get back on the main road heading west all the way to the L-40 Canal. What's here? The fishing dock, canoe and kayak rentals, canoe and biking trails!
Enjoy your visit at Loxahatchee! We enjoy coming back again and again!
There are three Refuge areas open to the public, with the Headquarters area being the most popular and where the Visitor Center is located.
Access to the Headquarters area is on Lee Road via US 441 or SR 7. From Miami take the Florida Turnpike Northbound and exit at Atlantic Boulevard, head West and turn right on US441 then left on Lee Road where you will reach the Park Entrance.
Also open to visitors is the Hillsboro area to the South, and the 20-mile Bend area to the North. There is canoeing and a biking trail at the Hillsboro area, as well as boat ramps and fishing at both locations.
The Refuge is open year-round sunrise to sunset. The Visitor Center is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Best time of the year to visit is during the dry season, mid-November through April.
Bring some snacks and drinks if you're staying for the day as there are no restaurants or cafeterias inside the Refuge.
Parking is convenient and available at all the above main spots, the Visitor Center, the Marsh Trail and the L-40 Levee.
Where?: 10216 Lee Road, Boynton Beach, FL 33473
Access via US 441 or SR7.
The Headquarters area of the Refuge is about 60+ miles from the airport, it will take you about an hour and a half to two hours to drive depending on traffic.
Entrance Fee: $5 per vehicle. The Refuge is part of the National Park system, your National Park pass is valid here for free entry.
Public Use Opportunities: Hiking, Wildlife Observation, Boating, Canoeing and Kayaking on designated public use area, Photography, Biking, Fishing, Water-Fowl Hunting by permit only.
Not allowed: Pets, motorcycles or ATV's on the levees, airboats or jetskis on the canals, fires and camping, and it goes without saying that feeding and disturbing wildlife are definite no no's.
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