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Posts tagged ‘riverbend park’

Barking Tree Frog

During our recent trip to Jonathan Dickinson, our exploration centered on the Florida Trail and the Kitching Creek portions, which can lead you to  Riverbend Park and Indiantown Road, to the south.  It was a perfect day for such an investigation — overcast and lonely (encountering only one other backpacker, on his way to the primitive campsite). Four hours of hiking in Jonathan Dickinson’s terrain, and one is thankful for cloudy days (or at least my Irish skin always is). After passing stately rows of centuries-old cypress and live oak along the Loxahatchee River (into which the Kitching Creek flows), we headed into some lovely cypress swamps — always my favorite — before breaking out once again into the open pine flatwoods. Outside of the family of feral pigs (wild hogs) and myriad birds (we tried looking for the maniacal owl), it was somewhat quiet. But towards the end of the hike, I nearly stepped on a tiny, beautiful barking tree frog. Fortunately, s/he leapt straight in the air to avoid my lumbering hiking boots. I was reaching exhaustion after those hours of hiking — I really, really need to return to hiking shape….

A tiny barking tree frog hopped out of the way of my lumbering hiking boot, clutching a twig for dear life….

Beautiful markings on a tiny barking tree frog — safe and sound after s/he hopped out of the path!

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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.

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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

An Ethereal Swamp in Riverbend

After visiting the newly created (and still-in-development) Cypress Creek Natural Area (see corresponding post), we darted through one of my favorite areas of Riverbend Park in Jupiter, Florida — not exactly a difficult hike in this particular location, but we weren’t exactly looking for one, after spending 4 hours plodding through the (occasionally) deep sand of Cypress Creek.

Awhile back, we discovered a cut-through (perhaps the beginnings of a new trail) leading to Riverbend’s cypress swamp — a truly beautiful area of the park. The shortcut is lovely, and is obviously used by many critters judging by the tracks. We even managed to stumble upon a flock of wild turkeys and several hunting osprey, as it was approaching dusk. But Florida’s cypress swamps are a sight like no other, and it’s wonderful that this area of the Loxahatchee River — Seminole for “River of Turtles” — has been protected in all of its glory. (The Loxahatchee’s source is actually in Riverbend, winding through Jonathan Dickinson.)

Per the park’s signage:

“Riverbend Park’s aquatic habitats are invaluable. They provide food, water and shelter for a vast array of unique species of aquatic and semi-aquatic wildlife. Protection of these riparian or river ecosystems within Riverbend Park not only gives visitors the opportunity to study local wildlife, but provides critical habitat for the wildlife, thus ensuring their survival.”

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Wildflowers, Riverbend Park

Birds’ Feast, Riverbend Park

Plethora of Palms, Riverbend Park

Cypress Stump in Swamp, Riverbend Park

Cypress Swamp, Riverbend Park

Cypress Swamp, Riverbend Park

Signage, Riverbend Park

Wild Turkey, Riverbend Park

Riverbend Park

Riverbend has been by far one of our favorite places to hike, of late. There are expansive networks of trails (for the beginner as well as for the more experienced explorer), including the Ocean-to-Lake portion of the Florida Trail. A wonderful extension of the Florida Trail can also be picked up across the street from Riverbend — accessible through the park (under Indiantown Rd.), or creatively hoofing it across the street, near the river. We jump a fence for quicker and easier access, but it can be difficult to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It’s a fantastic trail, with a gorgeous watering hole, canopy trees, and miles of hiking, that leads to Jonathan Dickinson. (Several pics below were taken along this trail.)

Within Riverbend proper, besides the nearly 10 miles of hiking and biking trails, there are 7 miles of equestrian trails, and 5 miles of canoeing/kayaking trails — leading you through an otter preserve, and all the way to JD as mentioned. What I especially love about this park is its significant and rich history: Habitation has occurred along the Loxahatchee river dating as far back as the Archaic Period, 5,000 years ago. The first battle of the Loxahatchee, referred to as Powell’s Battle, took place on January 15, 1838. The second battle of the Loxahatchee — Jesup’s Battle — occurred nine days later on January 24, 1838. Outnumbered 1500 to 300, the Seminoles fled into the swamps. After the Battle of the Loxahatchee, Jesup petitioned Washington to allow the Seminoles to remain in the Everglades, effectively ending the war. Washington denied his request, and 600 Seminoles were captured at Fort Jupiter. From its ancient Indian middens, through the tragic Seminole War Battles, to its impressive present-day restoration efforts, tremendous respect should be given to this land and its history. Habitats include beautiful pine flatwoods, open meadows, cypress swamps, oak hammocks, and even abandoned — but still fruit-bearing — orange and grapefruit groves. It can become busy on the weekends, so if you’re able to visit on a weekday during the quieter hours, it’s much more peaceful (or, visit the less-traveled Florida Trail extensions). We’ve seen great horned owls, red-shouldered hawks, deer, alligator, wild turkey, peacocks, gopher tortoises, and otter during such off-times.

We’ll picnic here, along the river or within park in the chickee huts, before our hikes. As always, bring extra trash bags, in case there are no cans in sight until the park’s entrance. (Although here, that’s not such a problem.) We often pick up others’ trash along the way, anyways.

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