Nature Walks – Trifecta: Wakodahatchee, Okeeheelee Nature Center, and Peaceful Waters Wetlands
Greatly improved since my injury on Thanksgiving Weekend, I have managed to get quite a bit of walking during the last couple of days, including visiting Wakodahatchee and Peaceful Waters Wetlands (Wellington, Florida). I also visited the northern portion of Okeeheelee County Park, especially the Nature Center located on the north end of the park, not far from the Florida Turnpike. It’s a sad fact that there are very few places in this part of South Florida short of visiting the middle of the Everglades where you can escape from the sounds and presence of man.
Wakodahatchee is always entertaining, even for relatively small wetlands preserve. I saw a small gator and lots of birds. The Great Blue Herons are in the midst of their nesting cycle, with the couples taking turns in grooming their partners. It’s quite touching to witness this tender ritual. In another area, the Double-crested Cormorants are growing swiftly, the “babies” now being nearly the size of the adults. Soon other bird species will take over the nesting grounds, especially in mid-winter. The Ospreys were flying overhead making their characteristic calls, at which other birds instinctively flinch. Black-bellied Whistling Ducks sought out refuge beneath the spreading custard apple trees.
This morning I headed out to a new area, the northern portion of Okeeheelee County Park and its Nature Center. The park is huge, filled with sprawling playfields, bike paths and assorted ponds and lakes. There is a place where you can rent kayaks or paddleboats. And there is even a small golf-course, as well as several picnic areas. The Nature Center is tucked alongside the northern border of the park and still retains a more natural “old Florida” look with its flat pine and cabbage palm woods. However, somehow, after seeing the more extensive woodlands in North Central Florida, this little bit of woods wasn’t very impressive. Still, it was a nice place to take a walk. The only other people present were a few park employees surveying the trails and doing some pruning here and there. The Nature Center also has an outdoor teaching classroom, which is devoted to teaching children about naturalist themes. The Nature Center has about 2.5 miles of walking trails. No pets are allowed in this portion of the park.
Next, I headed over to the fringes of Wellington, which is a planned community to the west of West Palm Beach. I found my way back to the Peaceful Waters Wetlands Sanctuary, which is tucked into a corner of this huge park, near 120th and Pierson Road. As soon as I entered the gate, I spied a Roseate Spoonbill perched on the boardwalk. And there was quite a grouping of birds actively feeding in the shallow waters of the marsh. I walked clear around the wetlands on the berms, being careful to keep an eye out for alligators who are present. Fortunately, none were seen, but I saw one trail that indicated the recent passage of a heavy long body from off one of the berms. I was able to get several photos of birds and one marsh rabbit which posed for me while I was walking along one of the grassy berms.
All in all, it was a satisfying two days of visits to my favorite wetlands. When I go to these places, I never use GPS. Instead, I rely on memory after looking at Google Maps to determine my route. I had not originally planned to visit Peaceful Waters but determined that it wasn’t too far away, so I found it eventually after taking a couple of slight detours off my main route. Fortunately, I have a lot of practice using maps and storing them in my head, from my old days of hiking, camping, and backpacking in the wilds of Oregon and Washington States.
The big holiday season approaches. Personally, I’m always glad when they’re over. I really don’t appreciate the excessive amount of consumerism that is pushed by every media source this particular season (and now just about everyone). I will have a place to celebrate Christmas this year, for which I am grateful, but plan to keep it rather low-key.
Enjoy your upcoming weekend and holidays!
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