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Posts tagged ‘cypress swamp’

A Slightly Soggy Swamp Hike

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. —John Burroughs

This was definitely one of those days — we needed to have our “senses put in order.” During the continued exploration of West Palm Beach’s Grassy Waters Preserve, we finally managed the entirety of the beautiful Apoxee Trail — “beyond tomorrow” in the Miccosukee language (pronounced A-po-hee). We also hiked part of the outer Owahee Trail, looping around to the Apoxee — where we spied the most amazing untouched cypress swamps and waterways. We previously weren’t (mentally) prepared for a flooded-trail hike, but on this day, we knew what to expect, so trusted our boots to do their stuff. Sadly, my sturdy pair lasted until the last half-mile…. Which, out of an entirety of 6 miles, was fairly frustrating. That’s when a startled OH! sounded from ahead on the trail, which one NEVER wants to hear while navigating waters that are the same height as the neighboring swamp / wetlands. Poisonous snakes swim down here. As do alligators. Ker-plunk goes my leg into the deepest section yet. No worries — there was so much beauty to be had, what’s a pair of soppy socks?

Not sure what the weather holds this weekend, but we’re sure to hit another of my favorite natural areas — one with a lovely, ancient history of habitation, magnificent old growth trees, and one where we spied fresh panther and bobcat prints — so needless to say, I’m excited. May your weekends hold equal anticipation and beauty!

Untouched cypress swamp, where we just missed an otter…

Everglades vista

Flooded Apoxee Trail: Take One

Pileated woodpecker

Apoxee Trail boardwalk — once or twice the swamp was covered!

Everglades vista

Flooded Apoxee Trail: Take Two… For some reason, the male didn’t appreciate the paparazzi at his back

Air plant along the trail: Common to our area, this one was enormous

Flooded Apoxee Trail: Take Three, the doozy

Waterway on the Owahee Trail

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge: A Winter’s Walk in South Florida

A very chilly and windy day at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge provided an absolutely LOVELY opportunity for the native Floridians who anxiously wait year-round for such times to explore, without the constant threat of Jurassic-sized mosquitoes. With the dark skies, the birds were either hunting or doing their best to stay warm — several hawks made themselves known, but the great-horned owls were impossible to spot, despite their persistent and seemingly close cries. And high in the beautifully colored cypress trees — the moss lit on fire with the sun’s long rays — a group of pileated woodpeckers rambunctiously searched for grub.

For More Information:

Cypress Swamp Colors in the Winter, Arthur R. Marshall

Cypress Swamp in the Winter, Arthur R. Marshall

Cypress Swamp Colors in the Winter, Arthur R. Marshall

Blue Heron in the Trees, Arthur R. Marshall

Blue Heron in the Trees, Arthur R. Marshall

Winter Tree and Vines, Arthur R. Marshall

Red-shouldered Hawk, Arthur R. Marshall

Red-shouldered Hawk, Arthur R. Marshall

Pileated Woodpecker, Arthur R. Marshall

Arthur’s Butterflies

A brief hike within Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge — along a secluded section of cypress swamp bordering a sliver of meadow — yielded both heavy blossoms and lots of…BUTTERFLIES! While the human male was busy exploring, I was exceptionally careful not to trip over any large, scaly objects as I thrashed about the bushes at the water’s edge, chasing butterflies. I had nearly crossed paths with one particularly large and silent scaly object — quite unlike a butterfly — in my efforts to photograph these lovelies…. Last picture proof positive to always be aware of one’s surroundings when hiking near water in Florida, and to be fully respectful and knowledgeable of alligators’ behavior. This certainly isn’t the first close encounter with these interesting creatures in our years of Florida hiking, nor will it be the last.

My mother would *not* be happy….

For More Information:

Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charitonius)

Viceroy Butterfly (Limenitis archippus), Arthur R. Marshall

Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charitonius), Arthur R. Marshall

Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus), Arthur R. Marshall

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)? Julia?, Arthur R. Marshall

Viceroy Butterfly (Limenitis archippus), Arthur R. Marshall

White Peacock Butterfly (Anartia jatrophae), Arthur R. Marshall

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)? Julia?, Arthur R. Marshall

White Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus albescens) (?), Arthur R. Marshall

Hullllo, Mr. Alligator. You’re not a butterfly.

Jonathan Dickinson State Park

Jonathan Dickinson State Park offers an ideal exploration of natural Florida, providing a vast ecosystem filled with wildlife in 13 natural communities. Sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, mangroves, and cypress swamps cover the entirety of the park, nearly 20 percent of which is comprised of coastal sand pine scrub, an environmental community so rare that it’s been designated as “globally imperiled.” The Loxahatchee River — Seminole for “River of Turtles” — was federally designated as Florida’s first “Wild and Scenic River” in 1985, and runs through Jonathan Dickinson, originating in Riverbend Park to the south.

Wildlife thrives at the park, due to a long history of protection. Deer, raccoons, foxes, otters, bobcats, and coyote can be seen if you’re quiet enough. Alligators are common, as are turtles along the river. Threatened and endangered species include Florida scrub-jays, gopher tortoises, manatees, and Eastern indigo snakes. More than 150 species of birds have been identified within the park as well. We’ve (not surprisingly) encountered families of wild pigs, but often on the backroad “trails” within the park. The feral pigs — or wild hogs — have become a destructive and invasive force in the area for some time, and the park does its bit to control their populations.


Jonathan Dickinson’s namesake was a shipwrecked Quaker merchant, who, in 1696 made his way — along with his family and other survivors — up the eastern Florida coast to St. Augustine. Crucial information about early life in Florida is provided within his journals, which describe his encounters with Native Americans and Spanish settlers.

During the 1930s, Trapper Nelson (born Vincent Nostokovich or Natulkiewicz), the Tarzan [or Wildman] of the Loxahatchee, moved to the region and lived off the land as a trapper and fur trader. He eventually grew himself and his home into one of the area’s first tourist attractions after World War II — with “Trapper’s Zoo and Jungle Gardens.” Spending the majority of his profits buying land at tax sales, he amassed nearly 900 acres of the Loxahatchee riverfront, thus sparing it from development. After he died mysteriously in 1968 of a “self-inflicted” shotgun wound to the chest, the state acquired his land, and deeded it to the park. Trapper’s controversial death continues to lend a sense of mystery to the site of his restored camp.

During World War II, the U.S. Army established Camp Murphy, a top-secret radar-training school. In what is now Jonathan Dickinson State Park, there were more than 1,000 buildings, housing more than 6,000 officers and soldiers. While the camp was deactivated after only two years of operation in 1944, many of the buildings’ ghostly foundations remain visible. In 1950, the land was declared a state park.


Hiking: Jonathan Dickinson provides a wealth of activities within its 11,500 acres. We’re avid hikers, and there’s much land to hike at JD. Be sure to pick up a trail map, or download one from the Web (or from one of the sites provided below). We’ve done bits of the four main nature trails — we’ve even tackled an abandoned trail or two. But of late, we’ve been investigating the Florida Trail and the Kitching Creek portions, which can lead you to Riverbend Park and Indiantown Road. You can spend a half-hour on a trail, or an entire day (if you can hike those 12 miles — sometimes in soft sand).

Biking: The bike trails at Jonathan Dickinson are amazing — both paved and off-road bicycle trails are available. The Camp Murphy Off-road Bicycle Trail System is a nine-mile network of mountain bike trails, with loops rated for difficulty, from beginner to “black diamond, experts only.” (Bicycles are available for rental.)

Horseback Riding: Eight miles of multi-use trails are also provided for equestrians wishing to bring their horses, and a full-facility campground is available for those wishing to camp with their horses.

Camping: The park provides an abundance of camping options, from full-facility, to cabins, to primitive (something we’d like to try in this area). Three youth group sites are also present at the park.

Canoeing & Kayaking: The Loxahatchee is famous for its scenic canoeing and kayaking, leading travelers under a canopy of breathtaking centuries-old cypress, or through a gnarled mangrove-lined estuary. I’ve canoed to Trapper Nelson’s site, and it’s especially lovely when it’s not the busy (S)eason. Rentals are offered for canoes, kayaks, and motorboats. Remember to observe the “idle speed” limit on the river within the park for the sake of the wildlife. The 25-passenger Loxahatchee Queen II also takes visitors on a two-hour tour of the river, with a stop at the restored camp of Trapper Nelson.

To learn more, visit the Elsa Kimbell Environmental Education and Research Center, which celebrates the nature and history of the park through exhibits, displays, and other educational offerings.

Address & Directions

16450 S.E. Federal Hwy.
Hobe Sound, 33455
(772) 546-2771 / Reservation: 1-800-326-3521

Hours: 8 a.m. until sundown, year-round

Jonathan Dickinson State Park is located 12 miles south of Stuart on U.S.1. Accessible from I-95 (Exit 87A) or the Florida Turnpike (Exit 116).

For More Information:

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Chasing Florida Flutterbys

On our hikes, we often stumble upon areas of flurried butterfly activity, due to Florida’s abundant all-year blooms. The most common encounter is the zebra longwing (Heliconius charitonius), designated as the official state butterfly of Florida in 1996 (something I just learned). No wonder it’s the state butterfly; it’s found throughout Florida in hardwood hammocks, swamps, gardens, and in the Everglades.

It’s tempting to want to cheat and run to Butterfly World to nab some prime shots of our butterflies, but for now I like to rely on the natural environs. We’ve spied some lovelies — swallowtails, sulphurs, whites, milkweeds and longwings — but sometimes, they just don’t want to pose for the camera. Or if they do, and aren’t as shy as the others, they rest in unfortunate spots — I find myself plowing through beastly banana spider webs, or trampling through swamp, to chase butterflies.

For More Information:

Viceroy Butterfly (Limenitis archippus), Arthur R. Marshall

Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus)

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly (Marpesia petreus)

Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charitonius), Arthur R. Marshall

Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charitonius), Riverbend Park

Poplar Sphinx Moth or Poplar Hawk Moth Larva, Big Cypress National Preserve

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