Pondhawk Natural Area is among the delightful areas of wilderness within the urban and suburban fabric of South Florida. It’s open to the public for free. You can see birds, butterflies, wetlands and more at this natural oasis in Boca Raton.
For insider info, Lee Lietzke of Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) offers his perspective on Pondhawk, including what you’ll likely sniff, hear and see.
“I …recommend traveling through the natural area at a leisurely pace,” Lietzke says. “Moving slowly and quietly will allow all the little details to soak in and increase the probability of observing wildlife.”
Sights, Sounds & Scents
Sights: StoryWalk features pages of a storybook displayed along a path. StoryWalk was installed by Boca Raton Library and ERM.
Sounds: “Pondhawk Natural Area is an island of wilderness surrounded by a sea of urban development. ERM staff thoughtfully designed and installed the on-site public use facilities with the intention of providing visitors with a refuge from the clatter and noise of the surrounding metropolitan environs. So one pleasant thing to hear at Pondhawk is silence,” Lietzke says.
Scents: “Silk bay, a distinctive tree endemic to peninsular Florida, is closely related to the species that provides bay leaves commonly used in the culinary arts,” according to Lietzke. “The leaves of silk bay have a pleasing, sweet aroma.”
Lietzke says: “A distinctive plant community protected at Pondhawk Natural Area is scrub. … Simply put, scrub is Florida’s answer to the desert. The scrub habitat at Pondhawk Natural Area is home to many rare plant species including Florida rosemary, shell mound prickly pear cactus and coontie.”
Pondhawk includes eight acres of restored wetlands featuring sawgrass.
Lietzke says: “Pondhawk Natural Area provides habitat for numerous species of butterfly. Species regularly observed on-site include: gulf fritillary, white peacock, , zebra longwing, and ruddy daggerwing. In fall 2021, ERM partnered with the Boca Raton Library to install a butterfly garden near the entrance to the natural area. With the help of volunteers, more than 100 butterfly host and nectar plants were installed. This project demonstrated viability almost immediately as butterflies were observed utilizing the host plants during the initial planting event.
“A diverse array of bird species are commonly observed at Pondhawk Natural Area. The variety of habitat types present within the natural area provide food and shelter for diverse avian species including great blue heron, Pileated woodpecker and Ruby-throated hummingbird.
“Fortunate visitors to Pondhawk may observe the only tortoise species naturally found east of the Mississippi River, the gopher tortoise. At Pondhawk Natural Area they are present in the high, dry scrub habitat where they construct their burrows and feed on low, grassy vegetation.”
Selfies & Photo Ops
Lietzke recommends snapping photos from the observation platform overlooking the restored marsh.
Lietzke says: “Before entering the natural area I recommend stopping at the informational kiosk and picking up a trail guide. In addition to a very useful map, the trail guide provides information on the site’s history, context in the surrounding area and information on plants and animals.
“While there are many places at Pondhawk with overhead canopy, many public use areas are exposed to the sun. I recommend wearing a hat and using sunblock when on site. It’s also a good Idea to bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated.
“I also recommend traveling through the natural area at a leisurely pace. Moving slowly and quietly will allow all the little details to soak in and increase the probability of observing wildlife.”
Wonderful information. Thank you, Lee.
Pondhawk is on the western side of Spanish River Library, 1501 Spanish River Boulevard, Boca Raton. Read other information on the website.
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Other Parks & Natural Areas
- Fern Forest is an oasis for nature walks, astronomy & other events
- Secret Woods in Dania
- Florida State Parks
- Palm Beach County Parks
- Broward County parks
- Miami-Dade Parks
- Hollywood Broadwalk runs oceanside, a popular venue for walking, skating and live entertainment
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