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Air, Water + Earth: The Savannas

Despite our fanatical hiking throughout South Florida, we had never investigated the Savannas — and within the space of one week, it came up in conversation no less than three times (once from a fellow blogger). Obviously a sign! We were insanely lucky to visit on a cool, cloudy, and windy day after an unseasonably warm (read: HOT) spell. We investigated a few trails from the Education Center, as well as further within the park. Afterwards, we drove towards Jensen Beach to check out Hawk’s Bluff, also part of the park and an extension of the Florida Trail. Located along the eastern edge of the Savannas, Hawk’s Bluff is a lovely 1-mile loop trail, marked by sand dunes and oak hammocks, leading to the water’s edge overlooking the Savannas. If anyone has suggestions for other trails and access points, please give a shout!

Managing nearly 6,000 acres, the preserve represents the largest and most ecologically intact swath of freshwater marshes, or “savannas,” that once extended along Florida’s entire southeast coast. Looking across their lovely vastness today, it’s downright depressing to picture the hotels that currently reside in their place. The open wetlands filter rainwater and runoff from the surrounding dunes and pine flatwoods, creating a unique biological community — an endangered landscape — as they continue to preserve and feed vital waterways and ecosystems, including the Atlantic scrub ridge, freshwater marshes, and the estuaries of the St. Lucie Inlet. The preserve is comprised of six natural communities: pine flatwoods, wet prairie, basin marsh, marsh lake, sand pine scrub, and scrubby flatwoods. While each community is home to its own fauna and flora populations, the sand pine scrub habitat represents an increasingly imperiled ecosystem, and shelters several of Florida’s most threatened and endangered animal and plant species. The Savannas’ many wildlife species include the threatened Florida scrub jays, gopher tortoises, alligators, deer, and sandhill cranes. American bald eagles have recently made their homes in the preserve, as well — the nests of several pairs are located in the more isolated areas. The park is also one of the few remaining natural habitats in the U.S. for the endangered (and inedible) prickly apple cactus (Harrisia fragrans), which grows along the Atlantic Ridge in the scrub regions.

Being a chilly and windy day, we didn’t run into too many critters, but I did manage to spot a few (with some trees thrown in for good measure):

Green-on-Green Dragonfly

Water Flower

Rat Snake Catching Some Sun

Palm and Savannas

Live Oak on the Hawk’s Bluff Trail

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Beautiful 🙂

    March 9, 2012

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