Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

Trip Information

General Description: A 3-to-4-hour day paddle along a trail through the River of Grass.

Starting point: Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The turn-off is on U.S. Highway 441, about 8.5 miles west of Boynton Beach. Entrance to the Refuge N 26 deg 29 min 54.42 sec, W 80 deg 12 min 30.72 sec Canoe trail launch area N 26 deg 29 min 54.9 sec, W 80 deg 13 min, 19.14 sec

Maps: Pick up a canoe-trail map at the Visitor Center

Contact Information:

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge 10216 Lee Road, Boynton Beach, FL 33437-4796. Visitor Center 561-734-8303, Administrative Offices 561-732-3684. Emergencies 561-936-4100.

Canoe/kayak rentals and guided tours: Loxahatchee Canoeing 561-733-0192. I'm not personally familiar with this business, so I can't give it my personal recommendation. Nevertheless, they may be able to provide you with excellent services.

The northernmost remains of the great River of Grass, the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge encompasses nearly 146,000 acres, and is surrounded by a 57-mile levee next to a 15-foot deep canal.

The canoe and kayak trail

Since overnight stays are not permitted here, the main attraction for paddlers is the 5.5-mile canoe/kayak trail into the River of Grass. From the launch site on the L-40 canal, the trail goes west for about 0.7 mile, at which point it splits to form a loop back to the same spot. Take the trail to the right (check the sign that says "Enter").

Water lilies and hydrilla grow in the trail in some spots, so it's not all open-water paddling. Chances are, you'll see an alligator or two, great egrets, herons, and white ibises. Check out the alligator picture and the picture of a tri-colored heron below.

Normal travel time for the entire trail is about 3 to 4 hours, and you must return before dark. Otherwise, the law enforcement guys will be out looking for you to make sure you're okay. A floating platform with a portable toilet is found about 2.2 miles into the trail.

The trail is normally well defined, but I'm told vegetation changes may, at times, cause some confusion. When all is said and done, this is an expansive, wild area. Bringing a compass and a GPS to mark your route is a good idea.

Boating around the Refuge

If you're motor boating, the 57-mile trip around the Refuge can be made in a day with a fast-enough boat. Head out in the L-40 canal for what I'm told is a wonderful adventure.

Naturally, whether you're paddling or motorboating you'll want to provide for protection against sun, wind, and rain. Bring a hat and protective clothing, sunscreen, and a poncho or other raingear.

Other things to do at the Refuge

See the exhibits and merchandise at the visitor center. Enjoy the 0.4 mile boardwalk through a bald cypress strand. Plus, hike the 0.8 mile open "Marsh Trail" which follows levees around areas reserved for water-level experimentation.

Loxahatchee boardwalk

Through such research, scientists hope to come to understand how to maintain optimum water levels for the entire Everglades, a fragile eco system, which is today largely dependent on water flow controlled by man instead of by nature.

We wish them great success.

Last revised April 2006

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