If you enjoy nature walks, Secret Woods in Dania Beach is a delightful natural area that’s easily accessible for South Florida residents.
Entry and parking are free.
Embark on nature walks on your own. Or join guided nature walks. They usually are offered on the first full weekends of the month. Please phone to verify. Night hikes are offered occasionally, too, for $5 and reservations are required.
Parks naturalist Julie Morris offered insider information.
Please describe some of the outstanding features of your park.
A: “Our butterfly habitat on Pollinator Pathway attracts a wide variety of south Florida native butterflies,” Julie said. “Raccoons, Gray Squirrels and an occasional Gray Fox make an appearance on our trails. Marlberry blooming throughout October gives a very floral scent through the forest…Population of Fiddler and blue land crabs that very few expect to see so far from the ocean. White ibis stalk through the high tidal waters using their unique beaks to forage fish, snails and other aquatic foods.”
Please describe your favorite place in the park.
A: “My favorite place is on Laurel Oak Trail, it’s where I feel like I have left society and the world behind when I step onto the woodchipped surface. I can feel the gentle press of the woods along me as I walk with the presence of shiny leaf wild coffee, fragrant marlberry, Sabal palm, the ancient laurel oak and towering cypress trees, the fruit of cocoplum and pond apple lay along the trail to draw out the raccoons and crabs which in turn draw out the Yellow Crowned Night Heron. Butterflies occasionally flitter onto the flowering plants along the trail and you can always hear an undertone of skittering as the fiddler crabs anticipate your approach.”
Q: Please discuss distinctive trees, flowers and other interesting natural elements.
A: “One reason the area was preserved was because of the very large Laurel Oaks, one of which is highlighted on the Laurel Oak Trail. We also have native red maple trees that give the Fall color with bright red leaves in the Fall.
“Our observation deck on the New River offers the opportunity to glimpse manatees and several varieties of native fish as well as Ospreys seeking sushi dinner. Mangrove trees show off their ‘walking root system’ and demonstrate how they are able to trap floating debris — marine plastic, tons of coconuts, and discarded trash floating along the river — for us to remove more easily.”
Q: Please offer recommendations for people walking through the park.
A: “Camera or phone for photos and videos, binoculars to identify birds in the canopy and through the brush, everyday clothing for a hike works best unless there is rain or King tides then be prepared to slog through a few puddles or underwater walkways. The groundskeeper has maintained a few areas under Strangler Figs for unique photo opportunities and we offer every shade of green you could ever want in your background. Bringing snacks is fine but there are no picnic areas available and no sharing with the wildlife, trash receptacles are at trailheads and near park facilities only. There are none along the trail, please pack out your trash. ”
Secret Woods Nature Center, 2701 W. State Road 84, Dania Beach, 954-357-8886, website
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