Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge: The way Florida was

Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge and Nature Center
13640 SE Federal Hwy
Hobe Sound, Florida 33455
Martin County (about 20 miles north of West Palm Beach)
Off US Highway 1, about four miles north of Tequesta
Admission: donations
Center open Monday-Saturday :  9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Wildlife refuge open sunrise to sunset, seven days

By Jane Feehan

There’s  a piece of natural, undeveloped Florida habitat between Tequesta and the town of Hobe Sound that should not be missed: the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge and Nature Center. It’s fascinating, educational, and on my visit, a bit exciting because of unexpected animal activity along its Scrub Trail.

Ninety percent of the natural scrub pine environment has been lost to development in Florida – reason enough to stop here and see how things used to be.  The 1000-acre refuge, part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that’s operated by the Hobe Sound Nature Center (a nonprofit organization), includes a short trail, steps to the Indian River Lagoon, a collection of living indigenous and exotic animals, a gift shop and classroom.

Two living birds of prey, an owl and a falcon unable to fly because of old injuries, greet visitors from a perch as seen in the photos left. (They’re caged outdoors off site at night).  A wildlife expert guides a tour of the exhibit, starting with the birds, and then through a collection of other animals. If asked, she’ll take a baby gator, crocodile or most any other resident creature out of their artificial habitats for an up close and personal encounter. We passed on that but did have an encounter of the unexpected kind.

While on the Scrub Pine Trail, we met up with a family of wild boar.  They won’t attack unless their offspring are threatened but we didn’t want to chance it and turned around. We'll try it another time, when others come along. From there we walked down 46 steps to the Indian River Lagoon where some were fishing– a beautiful area with a view of posh Jupiter Island. Another plus: This refuge, like most, provides a great venue for bird watching.

More than 120,000 visitors come through the center each year. With weekly guided walks, classes and a host of other activities, the Hobe Sound Wildlife Refuge and Nature Center is a terrific Florida experience, not far from the concrete and congested traffic of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. 

Tags: Florida sights, natural Florida habitats, Treasure Coast, Hobe Sound, 
South Florida attractions, wild boar, Martin County

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