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Critical Habitat Protection at the Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park in Stuart (Martin County) is a must-visit: a gorgeous area encompassing 5,800 acres of pristine wetlands and uplands, which provides critical habitat for endangered species of animals and plants. The ecosystem encompasses pine palmetto flatwoods, wet prairie, sand pine scrub, oak hammocks, mixed hardwoods, and freshwater marshes. It includes one of the largest areas of natural land remaining near the Florida Coast.

The natural Atlantic Ridge ecosystem is comprised of 16,000 acres in its entirety. Outside of the already-acquired 5,800 acres, some more areas are on the county’s list for lands to be acquired for purchase of conservation lands and parks — so keep your fingers crossed, because this is some truly beautiful pristine land. The Hobe Sound Irrevocable Trust is proposing to give away approximately 2,300 more acres, enabling the county to provide additional public access to this park, and to preserve the environmentally sensitive land in perpetuity as part of the State park system. The donated lands will create a wildlife, greenway, and recreational corridor running north from Halpatiokee Regional Park (also in Stuart) through the Atlantic Ridge State Park, and south to Jonathan Dickinson State Park.

Pine Flatwoods, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

Pine Flatwoods (Tree = Tree)

Pine Flatwoods, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

Pine Flatwoods

There’s always an exchange: here, it’s houses. In exchange for the conservation lands, the remaining 400 acres will become a new community, the Atlantic Preserve. This new Planned Unit Development (PUD) will contain 650 homes.

Prairie, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park


But for the 2,300 acres of donated lands that will be protected in perpetuity, this area will serve as the missing link that will connect the Atlantic Ridge State Park ecosystem. This area includes the headwaters of the South Fork of the St. Lucie River and the Loxahatchee River — the first nationally designated “Wild and Scenic River.” The donation and preservation of this land is critical in the ongoing efforts to restore the historic waterflow of these ancient waterways.

Pines, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

Into the Pines

Prescribed Burning Signage, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

Prescribed, or Controlled Burning Signage

Many animals make their homes in these protected and pristine acres, including anhingas, egrets, herons, owls, hawks, sandhill cranes, and osprey. Bobcat and coyote are also abundant, but as always, these guys were shy as ever. It was equally wonderful to see such healthy and abundant Native flora for the wildlife.

Coyote Prints, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

Lots of coyote prints, but no real critter… Drats!

Feral Hog Trap, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

(Invasive) Feral Hog Trap… Here, piggie piggie


Really have to take that Naturalist Class….



Click Here for a Map to the Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park.

The only other people I saw here were on horseback — two of them! But be forewarned, having learned this from the ranger…. Apparently the Palm Beach Hunt Club likes to visit on the occasional Saturdays with their 20-something dogs and horses, spreading a scent and letting their collared dogs run free throughout the Preserve. Needless to say, I’ll never be visiting this location on any Saturday. I’m VERY confused by the County allowing this practice — that is, allowing a HUNT CLUB and their dogs roam free in sensitive, threatened habitat, with wildlife?? Am I missing something?

There’s one public access point, via Cove Road in South Stuart. Before entering, make note of the fee required at the honor station. ALSO: Call Jonathan Dickinson State Park at 772-546-2771 for the entry gate code. Sometimes the gate is closed upon entry, sometimes it’s open. Either way, you NEED THIS ENTRY CODE to leave via a locked gate!

Slash Pine Close-up, Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

Slash Pine Close-up

39 Comments Post a comment
  1. Your post made me smile! This is great news and yeah, unfortunately there is an exchange with the house bit. When I lived in Florida in the 2002-2005 timeframe I noticed a dramatic change in natural areas which included massive development (strip malls, parking lots etc). This really bothered me because the natural spaces are vital to the survival of thousands of animals/plants/insects species and… Whatever happens to the natural world includes us in the equation which is something oftentimes overlooked by overzealous and greedy developers. I hope everything goes through with this plan without a hitch. Your photos really show how precious and beautiful this area is!

    January 17, 2013
    • Ah, I’m so happy….!! I’m glad I could do a bit of justice to this most amazing and beautiful area. You’re so very right. You say it perfectly — the preservation of these lands is vital not just for the wildlife and trees, for the natural kingdom at large, but for US. And many have noticed the wayward, OUT-OF-CONTROL development that’s taken place here, at the sake of our threatened, endangered lands.

      My personal favorite? Seeing the greedy developer tear down pristine land, and build a brand-new strip mall immediately next to one filled with *empty* stores. They simply do NOT CARE. This state really has to get a hold on the developers — or perhaps it’s a countrywide issue. Regardless, hopefully more education, more awareness, will curb these (feel free to fill in the blank) developers, and instill wisdom for future generations!! We’ve done ENOUGH….

      January 17, 2013
      • YESH! We are definitely of the same vision here. Yes, karma has a way of working things out when folks violate the natural and spiritual laws.

        January 17, 2013
  2. Terrific photos and info about this amazing area!

    January 17, 2013
    • Thanks so much! It’s a truly wonderful, beautiful area… Can’t wait to return. Maybe I’ll actually see a coyote, and not his/her prints! 🙂

      January 17, 2013
  3. Here’s hoping it all works out. How wonderful would that be. As always, stunning photographs and such interesting info. If I can’t get to travel there, at least I get to experience it through your eyes and what better eyes could I hope for.

    January 17, 2013
    • Thanks so much!! You’re incredibly kind. It’s impossible to do this beauty justice, but any photo one takes is bound to be lovely — it’s just an amazing area. I’m so happy to share this most magnificent land, one we must, must continue to protect!!

      January 17, 2013
  4. The pine trees are magnificent, FeyGirl. Communities need more planning like this one – a place where humans and animals can co-exist. Isn’t that the way Nature intended life to be? ❤

    January 17, 2013
    • Ah, I love the pines as well….! Can’t get enough of them. It’s not the swamp, but I’m happy you enjoyed them too. 🙂 I agree — if development must occur, at least it’s done so with the primary thought of this threatened, pristine land at the top priority (although the houses are being built on such land). And the county seems to be doing what it can to protect and acquire more….

      January 17, 2013
  5. So nice to hear about preservation of wild areas. The cost (houses) is unavoidable, I guess, but at least some places are starting to become off-limits. The only way rampant and ecologically insensitive development will be stopped is if the public demands it. And for that, we nature bloggers have our work to do in helping spread the good word for nature!

    Also, the track photo had me stumped. Is that a human hand? If so, the coyote must have been enormous!

    January 17, 2013
    • You’re so right…. It was disheartening to see the trade-off — the houses built on this ecologically sensitive, threatened ecosystem — but at least the county curbed in, and is doing their best to protect what’s there, and acquire more land for future preservation. And DITTO to the cause of all artists and bloggers to advocate for the protection of the land and wildlife — just simply by showing its beauty! Greedy and insensitive developers will always exist. But with growing awareness, YES — eventually, it must be curtailed, for all of our sakes.

      You know, that had me stumped, as well! Which is why I included it…. It’s definitely not human — there were / are some claw marks that had been wiped out, that are barely visible on the image. If you look closely, you may see them. I’m thinking it may have been an altered raccoon print, smudged perhaps??

      January 17, 2013
  6. Pam #

    Just lovely!

    January 17, 2013
    • I was thrilled to discover yet another area to explore… Yayay!! Too bad I missed the coyote roaming all around me, though. 🙂

      January 18, 2013
  7. Birds from the Caribbean #

    Very interesting info here Christina. It doesn’t surprise me they’ll be giving part of this land to hunters. The feral pig cage is a depressing sight, as I have a soft spot with all invasive species, can’t image what awaits them them they’re finally caught.

    January 18, 2013
    • I don’t think they’re turning over the land to hunters… I often see these traps for the feral pigs in the state parks, set by rangers. In other areas though, hunting them is definitely open.

      They’ve become quite a ruling force in our area — them and the pythons — doing some serious damage to our more delicate native flora and fauna. But if the populations must be controlled, one can only pray that it’s done so in a HUMANE way…..

      January 18, 2013
  8. Birds from the Caribbean #

    I meant to say “What awaits them when they’re finally caught.”.

    January 18, 2013
  9. Looks like more fun! Nice contrast to the swampier areas.

    January 18, 2013
    • Most definitely…. There were some wet areas, but I didn’t get soaked. 🙂 It’s so beautiful, so very peaceful.

      January 18, 2013
  10. The pink wildflower is Pennyroyal (Piloblephis rigid) which is a native species and the yellow wildflower is Showy Rattlebox (Crotolaria spectabilis) which ia non-native. Thanks for signing up for the Treasure Coast Native blog. I’m also doing one called A Trail to the River ( which is about the Halpatiokee Trail in the Savannas State Park. Am enjoying reading your blog.

    January 18, 2013
  11. Oh yuk..more houses but at least they are trying to do something to balance if indeed there is ever a way to balance.. I don’t get it…a pack of dogs and horses..that is crazy.. How much money are they donating to some political campaign…see I am jaded,,,Michelle

    January 18, 2013
    • Exactly…. It’s a shame they’re building on this pristine land, but if it means protecting more of it, well… But those packs of dogs and horses in a threatened ecosystem, as described by their OWN LITERATURE? I think you nailed it…hmmmm…. Money is king. How else can this be allowed, when not even pets are allowed into these places? How?

      January 20, 2013
  12. Terrific article! I’m going to have to plan a road trip! Great pictures of what a bunch of our state used to look like. I can almost smell the pines……….


    January 18, 2013
    • Exactly to the point… I always flash back to what our area must have appeared as, when I’m hiking through these amazing habitats. The shock of returning to the concrete is stunning. I realize there must be a balance, but we need to find a better one here.

      Ah, the pines are wonderful here! I just wished I could’ve seen at least a bit of the shyer wildlife. 🙂

      January 20, 2013
  13. I like the stately pines for a change too even though I’m horribly partial to cypress!! I looks like you had a beautiful day!! Thanks for the view of an area new to me!!

    January 19, 2013
    • Ah, ditto! I do love the swamp and cypress… But these areas, the hammocks and prairies, have such a stately beauty! So vast, so serene — a perfect day. 🙂

      January 20, 2013
  14. What marvellous shots of the area. So glad to hear that it will be preserved, but certainly don’t understand why they would allow a hunt club.

    January 20, 2013
    • Nor do I…. Especially when it’s described as a “threatened ecosystem,” which of course it IS. As another blogger commented: Perhaps money is king, here? Sad to think, but…? How else are all these dogs allowed into a preservation with wildlife? Ergh. But at least the land is preserved. And hopefully this activity will be CURTAILED.

      January 20, 2013
  15. These places are becoming increasingly more important in preserving small areas of wilderness for the wild creatures. But like you, I can’t believe they let a hunt rampage through – that’s not a human activity that’s compatible with conservation!

    Beautiful spot though. BTW, how big was that coyote paw print?

    January 20, 2013
    • You’re so very right… It’s critical, absolutely necessary — for the sake of the wildlife, for OUR sake — that we preserve these wild areas.

      And why they allow a hunt club, with their DOGS, on self-described “sensitive and threatened lands”… Hmm. And apparently weekly! Something is curiously amiss here. Money exchanged, as another blogger mentions? In these kinds of places, NO pets are normally allowed.

      The coyote print was fairly large! In talking with the ranger, apparently they grow quite large and healthy. 🙂 I wish I could have seen them!! They’re so shy, though.

      January 20, 2013
  16. marialla #

    Thank you for presenting yet another corner of the world to us all. I love your humour – I too often think how I should take that nature course and then time moves on, beauty for beauties sake seems enough and the desire moves away from great search for knowledge in all areas. Sad but true.
    I guess the old saying that you never know what you will miss until it is gone is really true – so the horses and dogs shall roam but then again maybe this action makes nature stronger. Hard to say and man’s folly hard to understand especially as , I think, money has a way of screaming over reason.
    As my friend will say – everything is in God;s hands and the will of God trumps all!!

    January 20, 2013
    • You’re so kind — thank you!!! I’ve been meaning to take a Master Naturalist class that’s offered a bit north of here. It sounds so incredibly interesting, and I’d love to take opportunity of the resources. So I’m with ya!

      Very good perspective, you have… And in the long run, at least the land is preserved, and they’re looking to protect more. Money does seem to be the ruling force here, for sure — for in sensitive and protected lands, NO PETS are the rule. NOT 20 dogs and a hunt club running amok! I love your perspective, though. 🙂

      January 20, 2013
  17. Your second to last photo (the one with yellow flowers) could be a Crotolaria species. It’s definitely something in the Fabaceae family.

    January 20, 2013
    • Thanks so much!! I really need to take our local (Palm Beach) Master Naturalist class…. I need help with the plants!

      Another naturalist blogger commented that it’s a Showy Rattlebox (Crotolaria spectabilis) — which is non-native, unfortunately.

      January 20, 2013
  18. I think that print that was questioned up above is the front paw print of a raccoon.

    The photos are wonderful. I can’t quite get over the combination of pine and palmetto, but I was tickled to find the word “hammock” again.

    I just was thinking… We have those greedy suburban strip mall developers, too. And, we have plenty of the destructive feral hogs. Do you suppose we could devise a trap similar to the feral hog trap for the developers? 😉

    January 20, 2013
    • Hahahaha!!! I LOVE YOUR IDEA! Man, you’re a clever one. We could place wads of cash with architectural plans, in similarly devised traps!

      Yep, that other print is definitely a raccoon — just smudged. You can barely make out the claw marks (I could see it “live”). It’s a good comparison with the coyote. 🙂 I was wishing to have seen a coyote, though — heard them, all ’round… Alas, no sighting. I’m sure they saw ME!

      January 21, 2013
  19. narhvalur #

    Reblogged this on Ann Novek–With the Sky as the Ceiling and the Heart Outdoors.

    January 21, 2013
  20. Fabulous blog!!!

    June 30, 2014

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