Sunday, April 22, 2012

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park

Take a cool, blustery Saturday with predicted afternoon showers, and then combine that with two teenage 'young men' with time on their hands. There's nothing else for it, we'll have to go on a family ramble.
Dune Hammock Trail
Part IV of my mini series "Trails and Open Spaces" showcases the absolutely beautiful John D. MacArthur Beach State Park. This park is my hands down favorite and is a National Gold Medal Winner of Florida State Parks.

The 325-acre park is situated directly alongside the Lake Worth Lagoon, and a two mile stretch of Atlantic Ocean beachfront. If you want to experience the real Florida, refresh yourself here by hiking the forest trails, and give yourself at least three hours to leisurely explore the park's many attractions.

John D. MacArthur
Named after its previous owner, John D. MacArthur, it is preserved for future generations due to his generous donation of the land in the 1970s for public park use. Additional monetary contributions from the MacArthurs Foundation were used to develop the park as 'public friendly' and to build the Nature Center.

Parking is ample and adjacent to the nature trails, boardwalk, picnic areas, nature center and kayak rental office, and they have a cute little playground to entertain the youngsters.

My young men and I started our exploration of the park by crossing the 1,600 foot boardwalk. As you can see it spans a large body of water known as an estuary of the Lake Worth Cove. Kayak rentals are available to paddle around the shallow cove.

One one side you can see the high rises on the beach of Singer Island and on the other side the view as far as the eye can see is the preserve and the pristine waters. The park staff provide a free tram ride across the boardwalk if you don't fancy the hike.

On the other side of the boardwalk one can either meander down a shady, nature trail called the Dune Hammock Walk. The trail runs below the dune line and adjacent to the beach. Otherwise you can climb the staircase to get down onto the beach. We chose the hammock walk.

Gumbo Limbo's Peeling Bark

My oldest son is propped up on a Gumbo Limbo tree (Bursera simaruba). A fast growing and large tree, it was used throughout the ages for medicine, varnish and incense.

It has an interesting red peeling bark, which gives it the nickname of "Tourist Tree."

My youngest son on the trail stands in front of a tree that has a Strangler Fig (Ficus aurea) wrapped around it. Although this Fig may eventually causes its host tree to die, the Strangler is a valuable source of food for many animals.

Strangler Fig grasping host tree

A shady spot to rest and watch the many Zebra longwinged butterflies flitter among the Wild Coffee plants.

The end of the trail reveals weathered stairs that offer a glimpse of the beach......

....and what a beautiful beach it is. Miles of soft sand and roaring surf.
We had the whole beach to ourselves...

"Look what I found mom!"

Seagrapes cover dunes
Seagrapes (Coccoloba uvifera) hold the dunes firmly in place. This plant's fruits are like grapes which can be made into a jam or eaten raw. Birds absolutely love, love these grapes.

Dune restoration in progress

Discoveries abound. This piece of coral is full of interesting textures and embedded marine life.

Beach staircase to get back onto boardwalk
For more information, and to visit the official park web site, listing events, hours and amenities:

Click here

The park charges a nominal entrance fee of $5 for a carload (up to 8). Trust me on this, it's money well spent for a few hours either walking through the lush, subtropical coastal habitat, visiting the nature center, or spending some time on the beach. 

Baby Loggerhead - Nature Center Exhibit

This is Florida at its very best.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dawn;
    That's a very interesting post about a very interesting place. It's funny, but when I read about the Atlantic seaboard I imagine the cold Northern shores rather than the warm Florida ones! I can imagine how nice it is to get away from the hassle and noise of the 21st Century and have a few moments of peace and quiet surrounded by Nature.


Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my blog and leave a message. Happy Gardening!

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