Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

A cypress swamp, trail marshes, canoeing, biking, amazing wildlife...

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.

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Wildlife

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).

You will also encounter areas that are closed to the public, please pay attention for any signs indicating these areas.

The main access area for visitors is the Headquarters Area:

Loxahatchee Refuge Headquarters Map - Visitor CenterVisitor Center Loxahatchee Refuge Headquarters Map - Cypress Swamp BoardwalkCypress Swamp Boardwalk
Loxahatchee Refuge Headquarters Map - TrailsMarsh Trail Loxahatchee Refuge Headquarters Map - Kayak Canoe Rental and LaunchKayak/Canoe Rental and Launch
Loxahatchee Refuge Headquarters Map - Fishing DockFishing Dock Loxahatchee Refuge Headquarters Map - Biking TrailBiking Trails

Entrance and Visitor Center

Entrance to the Refuge is on Lee Road off US441 between Boynton Beach Boulevard and Atlantic Boulevard.

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center Wildlife Exhibits

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.

The Cypress Swamp Boardwalk

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Cypress Swamp Boardwalk

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.

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Cypress Swamp Boardwalk

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.

The Marsh Trail

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Marshes: Egret

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.

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Marshes

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...

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Birdlife: Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron

And the beautiful and graceful Egrets which you see alongside the canals, flying overhead, in the marshes...

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Birdlife: Egret

If you look closely, Little Green Herons are usually perched in the branches close to the water...

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Birdlife: Little Green Heron
Little Green Heron

Those red-faced little black waterbirds are Coots, permanently darting around in the water, gliding among the lily pads and alongside the turtles...

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Birdlife: Coots

And up on the trees drying their feathers, Anhingas are a frequent sight.

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Birdlife: Anhinga

Also common but perhaps not so abundant is the Limpkin, with its characteristic brownish tinge and curved bill...

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Birdlife: Limpkin

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!

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Wildlife: Alligator

Done wandering the Marsh Trail? Let's keep driving further West on Lee Road (the main Road where you entered the Refuge), and you come to the L-40 Canal.

Here we find:

  • The Fishing Dock
  • Boat Ramps
  • Bike Rentals and Biking Trail
  • Canoe/Kayak Rental and Canoe Trail

Fishing at the Refuge

You will see folks casting their lines at the Fishing Dock that stands at the end of Lee Road on the L-40 canal. Fishing with rods and reels or poles and lines is allowed, no cast nets are permitted in the Refuge and definitely no commercial fishing of any kind.

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Biking Trail

Biking Rentals and Trails

A Biking Trail runs parallel to the canal. It is a straight shot all the way to the Hillsboro area in the South. This 12-mile trail is recommended for mountain and hybrid bikes. Of course you can always go as far as you wish and come back the same way.

Helmets are required for children under 16 according to Florida Law.

There is not much shade along this trail, bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Biking Trail

You can bring your own or rent a bike at the little concession stand.

Rates are $10 per hour or $25 for 4 hours. Give them a call to reserve at 561-733-0192.

Canoeing and Kayaking

Next to the canal is the concession stand with canoe and kayaks available for rent adjacent to an easy and convenient launching area.

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Canoe and Kayak Rentals

And just opposite the outpost on the other side of the canal, is the start of a 5.5 mile Canoe Trail. It's a great way to see wildlife close-up.

The trail loops around and would normally take between 3 and 4 hours to paddle through. There are informative signs all along the trail and who knows what you might run into, alligators, turtles, birds...

Canoe Rentals are $32 per boat which handle 2 adults and 2 small children

One-person kayaks are $25 per boat, tandem kayak (2-person) $35 per boat

Two-Hour Private Guided Canoe Tours are available for $65 plus the cost of the boat. The Refuge also conducts guided canoe tours on certain Saturdays, contact the Visitor Center for details at 561-734-8303.

And we definitely want to come back for the Full Moon Canoe Tour which Loxahatchee Canoeing holds every month, on full-moon night of course. It costs $32 per canoe for up to 3 adults per canoe and it lasts 2 hours from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. What to bring? Long sleeve shirt and long pants recommended, bug repellent and a flashlight! Check the calendar for the next full moon this year and call for your reservation 561-733-0192!

Enjoy your visit at Loxahatchee! We enjoy coming back again and again!

Getting to Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

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.

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Marshes

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge at a Glance

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.

Parking: Plentiful

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.

More Info: Loxahatchee Friends: The Un-Official Site of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and the official site of the Loxahatchee NWR

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