High Ridge Natural Area

Palm Beach County

gopher tortoise
7300 High Ridge Road
Lake Worth


Overview: The thing that stands out most about High Ridge Scrub Natural Area is the terrain. Flat it ain't. Perhaps it's the result of High Ridge's distant past — it is part of the Florida Coastal Ridge, once an ancient beach. More recently, a portion of it was used as a sand mine until the mid-1960s — but much of it is a series of rolling hills, making it unusual, perhaps unique, at least among the preserves, parks and natural areas found in South Palm Beach County. It also makes High Ridge fun to explore — you want to see what's over the next hill.

High Ridge is small, only 39 acres, but offers nearly two miles of hiking trails. It's mostly scrub, scrubby flatwoods, disturbed scrub and flatwoods, rare habitats in Florida. It's one of four natural areas within a few miles of each other that are the remnants of scrub and scrubby flatwoods that dominated the land between Lake Worth (the body of water, not the town) to the east and a chain of lakes and marshes — what's now called the Lake Osborne chain — to the west.

The History: During the early 1950s, High Ridge was a sand mine, providing fill for wet areas around Manalapan. Later, the same are was mined for the underlying orange soil. In places as much as 30 feet of sand and soil was stripped off the land and hauled off. In the 1990s, residents of the neighborhood, upset about how the land was being used and future development plans, asked Palm Beach County to buy High Ridge for use as a preserve, which it did in 1999 and 2000. High Ridge was on the list of high-priority environmentally sensitive lands when Palm Beach County began its natural areas program

What You'll See: Parts of High Ridge are almost desert-like, with low, sparse vegetation. Pricklypear cactus, in fact, is one of the dominant plants, along with Walter's groundcherry, partridge pea and narrowleaf silkgrass. In other places, scrub oaks, staggerbush, saw palmetto take over, while in others sand pines rule the canopy. Species we've spotted include gopher tortoise, black racer snakes, eastern cottontail rabbit, greenbriar, corkystem passion flower, east coast dune sunflower, ballmoss, Spanish moss, love vine, Florida rosemary and largeflowered rosemary. We've seen rare atala butterflies fluttering about the site.

Amenties: There’s a quarter-mile accessible nature trail called the Silkgrass, and a 1.5 mile natural surface hiking trail, with benches and a shelter. An educational kiosk and brochures provide an idea of what to see on the site. There is a small parking lot but no drinking water and toilets.

For more on High Ridge Scrub: The county's 2000 management plan, which includes a history if the site and lists of plants and animals found on site is here.
Virtual Tour

Cover Photo: Our experience with larger animals at High Ridge tend to be hit or miss. We've seen snakes, we've seen rabbits and this gopher tortoise, the iconic animal of Florida scrub. Invariably, we catch a glimpse of them just as they scurry for cover. We did manage to photograph this guy, barely, just as he made his way into some brambles.
Getting There ...
High Ridge Natural Area sits just west of I95. From the south, exit I95 at Gateway Boulevard, head west and turn right (north) at High Ridge Road. The natural area is on the right, roughly 1.5 miles north of Gateway. From the North, exit I95 at Hypoluxo Road, head west to High Ridge Road on the left. Head south along High Ridge for about a half mile; the natural area is on the left.

Photo Gallery for High Ridge Natural Area

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.