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Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge turns 60

This week marks the 60th anniversary of one of Palm Beach County’s natural jewels.

Once the northern Everglades sprawled to Lake Okeechobee. Most have gone to sugar fields and neighborhoods. Only one piece remains, and it’s in the shape of a teardrop.

On June 8, 1951, the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge was established “for use as an inviolate sanctuary” to protect and manage the north end of the southern Everglades.

It was the 216th refuge established in a network that’s now up to 553 and protects 150 million acres.

Owned by the South Florida Water Management District and leased to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the refuge covers 221 square miles west of State Road 7 from Southern Boulevard to the Broward-Palm Beach county line. A 57-mile levee surrounds classic Everglades environment: marshes, wet prairies, and tree islands from 1 acre to more than 300 acres.

The refuge protects endangered species such as the snail kite, wood stork and tropical curly grass fern, as well as alligators and red-bellied turtles. It’s composed of five different habitat types: tree islands, wet prairies, sloughs, sawgrass communities, and the largest remnant of a cypress swamp in Palm Beach County.

The refuge draws more than 300,000 visitors a year.

The Visitor Center off State Road 7 between Boynton Beach Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue, renovated in 2008-09, features interactive exhibits and an introductory refuge video, as well as an observation tower and observation platform, a fishing platform, nature trails and a 5½-mile canoe trail.

From the nearly half-mile Cypress Swamp Boardwalk, visitors can see several types of ferns and lichens as well as the majestic cardinal wild pine. The Marsh Trail, which runs eight-tenths of a mile, is an open levee trail that features views of wading birds, shorebirds, and migratory waterfowl. Boat ramps are at the main entrance, at the end of Lox Road west of Boca Raton, and at 20-Mile Bend. The Visitor Center is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Fees: $5 per vehicle or $1 per pedestrian.

Next Week: Art Marshall

Shawn Beale, 9, tries to attract the attention of his brother Keith, 7, and sister Beth, 4, as he watches the smoke from a controlled burning at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in 1987. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg June 9, 2011 at 11:35 am.


2 Replies

  1. brightlights Jun 20th 2011

    Please do an in depth article about the lack of management of the refuge. The board walk etc are a smal micro managed area that the public sees. the rest of the refuge is overgrown with invasive plant, has poor water quality that inhibit native plant and animals from using the habitat as it is intended. Further more the Federal agency charged with managing the property is negligent i maintaining the accessible areas for user groups such as fishermen and hunters. The master management plan revised some ten years ago is still a dusty handbook that has not been adhered to by the current or past managers. This is not to discredit the people, but the policies in place which force them to act as they do.

  2. LaurieMcAulay May 21st 2013

    Really appreciate this picture and story. The picture is of my children and I totally remember the evening it was taken quite by surprise. Now I can share this with others on Facebook. Thanks for sharing this!

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