Crystal Lake Sand Pine Scrub

Broward County

gray fox
3299 NE Third Avenue
Pompano Beach
Overview: One might wonder why we bother preserving these tiny patches of nature in urban settings. The answer for me came one early summer evening at this place, Crystal Lake Sand Pine Scrub, when I crossed paths, literally, with a gray fox. This was why, that he was here, calling this place home long before we humans took the first bulldozer to scar this land. We need to preserve this place and others like it, for him, for us, so that our children and our children's children may have the privilege of encountering him just like I did.

Crystal Lake sits just south of Sample Road on the east side of I-95 in Pompano Beach. There are about 3,200 feet of paved and unpaved trails cutting through it. It is 24 acres of scrub and scrubby flatwoods dominated by sand pines. These are rare habitats in Florida, rarer still this far south.

The History: Broward County owned the land at the time that it began creating a network of "urban wilderness" preserves, but had no plans for developing the tract. Crystal Lake Sand Pines became part part of that network in 1989, making it among the oldest "natural areas" in South Florida.

What You'll See: Unfortunately we can't guarantee you'll see a gray fox — they tend to be shy and relusive animals — but you might encounter a gopher tortoise, the iconic animal of Florida scrub, or various songbirds, warblers, cardinals, bluejays, mockingbirds, gray squirrel, cottontail rabbit or black racer snake. Plants your might find include pawpaw, pricklypear, feay's palafox, powderpuff lichen, staggerbush, whitemouth dayflower, gopher apple, greenbriar, and a variety of butterflies. Sand pines provide upper-story cover. The trails are well marked and maintained. All in all, it's an easy hike.

Amenities: There is plenty of parking, a covered seating area, an accessible trail called the Sand Pine and a natural surface trail called the Gray Fox that meander through the preserve. There are benches and interpretive signs along the way. There is no drinking water or restrooms.

In the neighborhood: Within a few miles of Crystal Lake Sand Pine Scrub are Military Trail, Highlands Scrub and the Tivoli Sand Pines Preserve. Farther north along Military Trail, you'll find Blazing Star Environmental Preserve and to the east, Deerfield Island Park

Other Links: For a list of plant species in Crystal Lake check out the Institute for Regional Conservation.
Virtual Tour

Cover Photo: One evening in early June a few years ago, we debated whether to stay home or make the drive from our home in Delray Beach down to Crystal Lake Sand Pine Scrub to do a litle exploring. It was getting late in the evening, and darkness would soon descend, but we decided to go anyway. Shortly into our walk, we spotted this guy, at the intersection of Sand Pine Trail and Gray Fox Trail. He looked at us long enough for me to take this photo and a couple others, then casually walked into the bush, never seen again. It was the only time in the years that we've been publishing Wild South Florida that we've spotted a gray fox.
Getting There ...
Crystal Lake Sand Pine Scrub sits just east of I95 and just south of Sample Road. From either north or south, exit I95 and head east. NE Third Avenue is the first traffic light east of I95. Turn Right. The natural area is a short distance on the right.

Photo Gallery for Crystal Lake Sand Pine Scrub

Click on the photograph to see an enlarged image. Click on the name to read more about the species.

Published by Wild South Florida, PO Box 7241, Delray Beach, FL 33482.
Photographs by David Sedore. Photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without permission.