Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Trails & Open Spaces II - Grassy Waters Preserve

When my boys were younger the announcement of an "adventure" - hiking, biking, walking, or even just visiting a botanical garden - was met with happy faces and excited preparations.

Fast forward 5 years and said boys are mid, and late teens. Adventures with mom has made way to "hanging out," young ladies, basketball, and paintball games, and so it should, after all independence is important and necessary.

So, when it transpired over the weekend that my youngest son was at a loose end for a few hours I casually asked (with barely concealed glee) if he would like to visit a local park. The result of our afternoon is part two in my mini-series of Trails, Open Spaces & Forests: Grassy Waters Preserve.

Grassy Waters Preserve is a pristine, and vast 20 square mile wetlands preserve located in North Palm Beach County, south east Florida. To underline its importance in our lives on a local level here, it is also known as the water catchment area for the City of West Palm Beach. Optimum water levels are considered to be between 18 to 24 inches, so it really is a shallow, marshy body of water that provides 695 million gallons of water, used for both drinking and environmental purposes. A history of Grassy Waters can be found here. There is no entry charge.

Boardwalk Entrance
The weather was in the mid-80s and breezy and dry. Perfect day for a hike and photography. The preserve is viewed via a 1,500 foot long boardwalk that winds above and around the preserve. You can see in the photo (above right) how the boardwalk is looping around in the background - see upper left of photo.

One of the fabulous aspects of this preserve is that it all wheelchair accessible and therefore anyone can enjoy the outstanding scenery from the viewing areas. While walking around there was an abundance of large bees and dragonflies. One of the viewing areas is shown below.

Tiki Hut
The Tiki Hut is remarkably cool considering it is just palm thatch, and the rocking chairs are a nice touch and a very welcome spot for drinking some water and viewing the dappled forest beyond - see photo below.
Very peaceful scenery.
View from Tiki Hut

The preserve staff offer "unique educational and guided environmental learning opportunities" including guided canoe tours, photography workshops and a swamp tromp (swamp walk). You just know I am going to be signing up for the tromp in the swamp!


Our destination is the wetlands canoe dock at the end of the boardwalk. Along the way we pass other viewing platforms that were being quietly enjoyed by other awestruck folks. 

Smiling faces everywhere!
View of the Wetlands

Canoe Dock Viewing Platform

At the dock my son reads about the endangered snail kite whose habitat has been the Everglades and connected wetlands for over 5,000 years. That habitat has been slowly destroyed by man through draining, building and pollution. The preserve staff are making extraordinary efforts to restore the balance and encourage its survival.
Lily Pads and Pig Frogs Abound
Grassy Waters Wetlands

Here is a view of the Lily pads. While we were standing here we could hear this grunting noise that sounded like a few hogs, and we looked around nervously expecting an irate boar to emerge from the swamp, but actually it was the aptly named pig frog!

Back at the preserve entrance we checked out the canoeing available, which is offered at very reasonable rates. My son was gung-ho for a paddle right there and then, but we didn't have sunscreen or hats with us.

They have guided paddling tours right into the preserve where the rare animals reside. 

Also featured is a "Moonlight Paddle," which is canoeing at sunset. I really have to come back and experience that.

Look how clear the water is!

Grassy Waters Preserve really does a wonderful job of showcasing Florida's fragile watery ecosystem wilderness, and leaves you wanting more of this beautiful scenery and wide open spaces.

Coming soon.......Trails & Open Spaces III - Apoxee Wilderness Preserve.


  1. What a beautiful park, and a beautiful day to visit it. That was fast thinking on your part, and it looks like your son was enjoying himself. We are so lucky to have so many wonderful preserved spaces here in Florida to visit. I love that tiki hut!

  2. Susan, I completely agree. We are very lucky to have so many preserved spaces and almost all of them are free to visit. I would just love one of those tiki huts in my garden!

  3. Dawn, that place is magical! Your Florida version of my Hampshire Fleet Pond... And how nice that your son agreed to accompany you on the walk - many lads of that age wouldn't want to be seen in public with their Mum!

  4. Mark, thank you! It is a wonderful location. "Magical" indeed. I lucked out having my son come with me..but I did have to share the camera.


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