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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

31 Comments Post a comment
  1. What great pictures. You’ve been a busy little bee~
    Not happy about the Hunt Club!!!!!
    Go get “em~

    August 18, 2013
    • Heee, thanks!! It’s a wonderful place, filled with the most beautiful flora and fauna. Truly! 🙂 XO!!

      September 26, 2013
  2. I’m also not happy about the hunt club, but what a beautiful region you have there.

    December 20, 2013
    • I’ve heard some interesting perspectives on the club; that not all the area is indigenous, so it’s not so bad that they’re present… But I still maintain: There are enough native ecosystems in the region — AND wildlife — that I believe should disallow their presence. Alas… It really is a gorgeous place, though. 🙂

      January 23, 2014
  3. Great article and photos! Those coyote prints look huge…don’t think I’d want to run into that one! I recall sitting on my back porch one day with Ronnie, my monk parakeet in his cage beside me, when a coyote wandered into the yard. He spotted Ronnie and started licking his mouth so I very quickly scooped up the cage and took Ronnie inside!

    December 23, 2013
    • Omigoodness!!!

      Coyotes are such FASCINATING, gorgeous, and intelligent creatures. Wildly smart! But you’re right — I wouldn’t want my ‘lil bird around one, while he was on a dinner hunt, hee! I’ve been on hikes and have seen their prints, heard them… Without a glimpse of them. Just love ’em, though. Very shy guys!

      January 23, 2014
      • Coyotes look very wise…I like the way they stand and watch from a distance when you see them in the wild, unlike foxes that run away.

        January 23, 2014
  4. Humph! I haven’t been getting your posts! Signed up again . . . .

    January 21, 2014
    • That’s my fault, I’m afraid!! I’ve been SERIOUSLY negligent with my poor blog…. But I hope to re-start it up again, and have begun responding to the comments, even (bad, blogger, bad!). But thanks SO much for signing up again!!!

      I hope you’ve been well, and kitty’s still on the healthy mend. 😉

      January 23, 2014
  5. That’s my fault, I’m afraid!! I’ve been SERIOUSLY negligent with my poor blog…. But I hope to re-start it up again, and have begun responding to the comments, even (bad, blogger, bad!). 🙂 But thanks for signing up again!!!

    January 22, 2014
  6. Jj Johnson #

    Hi. I am doing some research on the Atlantic Ridge area for the Jonathan Dickinson State Park aarchives. Have you ever heard the term Harris or Harriss Ranch associated with Atlantic Ridge? I appreciate your help.

    April 11, 2014
    • I’m sorry, I haven’t — I wish I could help to even point you in the right direction. If something comes to me (research-wise), I’ll definitely let you know though! Much luck…. (p.s. there is a fellow blogger who may know, so I’ll put it to him as well.)

      April 21, 2014
    • Chris Perez #

      The hunt club has been hunting out there long before it was deemed a state park. It was formally known as the Harris Ranch.The Harris ranch used to do a lot of deer, quail and duck hunting on the property and still has some of the biggest deer I have ever seen in Florida. As far as the hunt club (Palm Beach Hounds) goes, they strictly do scent hunts, and it’s quite fascinating to watch a semi traditional fox hunt. The dogs are not realeased until the hunt begins and put up after the hunt is over. The dogs follow a scent trail and the horses run behind them jumping over gates set up throughout the park. The trail they follow changes but does not run over the entire park. Atlantic Ridge is best viewed from horseback, from the gate to the south end of the property is pretty far somewhere around 6 or 7 miles plus it’s nice to have a higher perspective. On the northeast side there is a pair of nesting eagles but it is VERY wet and VERY deep in most places even during the “dry” months. There is also a hidden spring out there, but im’ not going to tell you where you have to find it yourself!

      August 25, 2014
      • Interesting history, many thanks for the detail! I heard a bit more about the location after the post, but not in so much detail. I appreciate the care the club provides, but with FLA’s dwindling ecosystems and natural areas (over-development and disappearing lands), it would be nice to preserve more for the native flora and fauna, undisturbed. At least it’s protected…

        Ah, I never saw the spring, drats! Or the eagles, but admittedly, I don’t stare up for long periods of time.

        September 12, 2014
  7. Chris Perez #

    Couple more things about Atlantic Ridge, there have been scrub jay sightings in the park, but no scrub habitat.I have seen them personally. A rare flower called Pine Lilly, the lillies bloom in the pine flatwoods and are a brilliant orange. Lastly there is an orange tree closer to the parking lot hidden in the woods down by the river that has the most delicious oranges.(if it’s still there).

    August 25, 2014
    • That’s WONDERFUL news, about the scrub jay! I hope their populations are returning — what a coup!

      I’d love to see those flowers, too…. Thanks so much for the information! Interesting; I’ve seen that orange coloring (further off, usually) in the flatwoods, but I never knew what it was.

      September 12, 2014
  8. Really great information and beautiful and interesting photos! Thank you!

    April 8, 2015
    • Thanks so very much! It’s easy to do with Florida’s natural beauty all around us… 🙂

      April 9, 2015
  9. I agree with above comments-hunt club-hmmmm-not good idea! I just love your “carefree” way of telling a story about a place and all the photos. You make it come alive and make me care:-) Interesting about the burns and how lighting would of done it by nature? did I read that right? Fascinating!
    feral hogs =invasive creatures! I watched a documentary on them a few years ago and how they were introduced and they get BIG! tee hee-priceless-“here piggy piggy”…also enjoy your sense of humor:-)

    April 20, 2015
    • Thank you so much for all your kind words! I do try to convey what I see in a more casual way, and I’m thrilled it’s actually coming across that way (hahah!). 🙂

      Yep, with regards to the controlled burns: They try to recreate a natural lightning-begun burn. So if there hasn’t been a natural burn in some time, the controlled burn comes into the picture — or else the vegetation runs rampant, and would cause lots of fuel to the fire of a natural burn (and it would be REALLY out of control). There are rangers / scientists who devote their careers to managing them! It’s fascinating.

      I feel horribly for the feral pigs — it’s not their fault, after all! But the damage that they impose on these more delicate ecosystems is massive. They really do wreak havoc! And running into them is…interesting. YIKES.

      April 20, 2015
  10. also your photos tell a story all alone-a gift you have:-) thank you for sharing!

    April 20, 2015
    • Aw, THANK you! I am far…incredibly far…from being truly skilled with photography. But I drag it around with me to share what I see! 🙂

      April 20, 2015
  11. Tom #

    The yellow flowered plant you asked for suggestions on is Rattlebox, a troublesome exotic/invasive.

    September 17, 2015
    • Ah, excellent — thanks so much for the help! So very lovely, this invasive little beauty.

      September 17, 2015
  12. PaddleBoy #

    Always looking for new sites to hike, camp and paddle. looks like this place could be a gem. Do I understand you have to get combo to gate to Atlantic Ridge from Jonathan Dickinson? How much lead time do you need to get it? Is there any primitive camping in Atlantic Ridge? Hey your pics are beautiful.

    December 8, 2015
    • Hi there! Thanks so much… It really is a great spot, full of wonderful little enclaves. Unfortunately I haven’t been there in awhile, so I’m not sure if they’ve changed the process. Last time I was there, here was the access / process, but I would definitely give them a call in case something’s changed! 🙂

      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!

      December 9, 2015

    are there wild turkeys in the Atlantic Ridge Preserve? My wife and I thought we some running in our yard in the Retreat sub Division.

    October 16, 2017
    • I wouldn’t doubt it! I’ve seen large flocks (sorry, RAFTERS) of them in several parks in the area (in some of the other parks / natural areas) – some, quite large! In one instance the toms were fighting off what appeared to have been a bobcat; and I’ve often encountered turkey feathers.

      October 17, 2017
  14. Patricia Logan #

    A Hunt Club with a pack of dogs! That’s not right!! What about people hiking with their dogs on a leash. This is a disaster waiting to happen!! Should not be slowed!!!

    January 4, 2019
    • It’s been quite some time since I’ve been there (a few years) – so I hope they’ve altered their practices. Florida desperately needs these safe, secure spaces for wildlife and human sanity!

      January 7, 2019

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