Jupiter Ridge Natural Area

Jupiter, Palm Beach County

Florida Scrub Lizard
1800 South U.S. Highway 1


Overview Jupiter Ridge Natural Area is only 269 acres but feels so much bigger because of its rolling terrain and dense flatwoods. It's mostly scrub and scrubby flatwoods dominated by sand pines, but it does offer a bit of tidal/mangrove swamp where it borders the Intracoastal Waterway and some of its back channels, several depression marshes, one of which is marked by the beautiful but nonnative cape blue waterlily.

Jupiter Ridge was the last place in Palm Beach County with a population of Florida scrub jays, the only bird endemic to the Sunshine State. However, scrub jays haven't been seen here in more than a decade, and the site is likely too small to support a scrub jay population. The nearest scrub jays can be found in Martin County at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Still, the birding is good enough here to qualify Jupiter Ridge Natural Area as a stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail.

And while you won't likely find scrub jays here, there's a fair chance of spotting another animal rare and endemic to the Sunshine State, the Florida scrub lizard, seen in the photo above. These little guys are found in pockets here and there throughout the state, and Jupiter Ridge Natural Area is one of their strongholds in South Florida.

History: Jupiter Ridge Natural Area was one of the 14 original target sites deemed environmentally sensitive and significant enough to warrant preservation back in the late 1980s when Palm Beach County was developing plans for a network of natural areas. The county bought the first 33 acres in December 1991, then bought 195 acres from the MacArthur Foundation in June 1993. Jupiter Ridge Natural Area open in 2001.

What You'll See: The landscape at Jupiter Ridge Natural Area varies from the driest Florida habitats has to offer to the wettest, from scrub to mangrove swamp, all within less than 300 acres. The Florida Scrub Lizard Trail is the major hiking trail within Jupiter Ridge; it's length, at about 1.7 miles isn't all that challenging, but it is sandy its entire length, and that adds a certain degree of difficulty. One thing you quickly notice is how open the scrub is here, with little in the way of ground cover in places. This is just the kind of habitat the Florida scrub lizard needs to exist.

According to the latest county management plan for Jupiter Ridge, there are some 364 species of plants found on the site, including 19 that are listed as rare or threatened by one agency or another. The list of rare plants that have been found here include Curtiss's Milkweed and four-petal pawpaw, neither of which we've seen. There are 275 animal species within Jupiter Ridge, 22 of which are listed. Among them, the gopher tortoise, as seen below. Best places for birding include the scrubby flatwoods and the mangrove swamp.

Amenities: Jupiter Ridge Offers 2.5 miles of hiking trails, including the 0.2-mile paved Little Blue Heron Trail. There is an observation deck where the trails meets a tributary of Old Lake Worth Creek. There's also an undeveloped boat landing at Ski Beach. Jupiter Ridge has plenty of parking but no restrooms or drinking water.

Nearby: Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area lies a few minutes north along U.S. 1; Juno Dunes Natural Area, Oceanfront Tract and West Tract lie to the south along the highway. Delaware Scrub Natural Area sits west along Indiantown Road. John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is to the south and east.

Links: The Great Florida Birding Trail's take on Jupiter Ridge is here; The Institute for Regional Conservation's inventory of plants for Jupiter Ridge is here.

Of Note: Admission is free; Jupiter Ridge is open sunrise to sunset every day of the year. It is managed by the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resource Management.

Cover Photo: Jupiter Ridge Natural Area with its acres of relatively open ground is probably the most reliable place to spot a Florida scrub lizard in South Florida. These little guys are Florida natives, and in fact, are only found in Florida. Like many species, one of the most critical problems facing the Florida scrub lizard is habitat loss and fragmentation. Scientists, including those at Palm Beach County's Department of Environmental Resource Management, have attempted to reintroduce the Florida scrub lizard to some of its old haunts, but in the mean time, they continue to thrive here.
Virtual Tour

Getting There ...
DIRECTIONS: Jupiter Ridge Natural Area can be reached from the north via the Turnpike and I95 from Indiantown Road, turning south at U.S. 1. From the south along I95, exit at Donald Ross Road and turn north at U.S. 1.

Photo Gallery for Jupiter 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.