Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Broward

Parkland, Broward County

alligator at night
15490 Loxahatchee Road


Overview: This is the southern entrance to the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, and the only entrance to the refuge not in Palm Beach County. It lacks the niceties the main Boynton Beach entrance offers, but it is wide open and offers visitors an idea of how vast the wildlife refuge really is. You think the place goes on forever, and at more than 145,000 acres it almost does.

The first thing that hits you is how open the place is, how different it is from the Boynton entrance. Water is everywhere, vegetation is relatively sparse. You can see north to the horizon and west to the horizon, with nothing obstructing your view.

The water attracts ducks and wading birds, including great blue herons and green herons, which we spotted during our visit. Vultures congregate in large numbers at the spillway by the entrance. And of course, there are alligators. Lots of them.

History: Historically, much of Florida's interior was too wet for permanent human habitation, including the land that is now Loxahatchee NWR. When Florida became a state in 1845, there was a push to drain much of the interior for settlement and for farming. That push hit overdrive in the 20th century. In the 1950s and into the 1970s, Florida state government and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built three large water retention areas to drain the region. In 1951, under an agreement with the state, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service leased one of these areas under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act and established the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The other two are now the neighboring Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area. In 1986, the refuge was renamed the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, honoring a former FWS employee.

What You'll See: Open water — vast expanses of open water — with grasses and tree islands mixed in. Loxahatchee literally goes on for miles and miles to the north and to the west. Two levees extending in those direction allow for pedestrian and bicycle access.

Amenities: Loxahatchee Broward is primative by comparison with the main entrance. There is plenty of parking and several boat ramps. Two trails extend from here, one to the north and one to the west, both open to hikers bikers. The west trail is open to horseback riders. An observation platorm extends a bit over the water along the north levee near the parking area. There's a third trail, heading south, but you're leaving the refuge and entering the state-owned Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Everglades Wildlife Management Area. The restroom is a single portable. There is no drinking water. A vendor offers full and half-day jon boat rentals.

Nearby: The Boynton Beach main entrance to Loxahatchee is, we're guessing, 20 to 25 minutes north of the Broward entrance along busy U.S. 441. The Doris Davis Foreman Wildlife Preserve is south of Hillsboro Boulevard, about 10 minutes away. The Kristin Jacobs Natural Area Hillsboro Pineland is on the eastern side 441, just south of Loxahatchee Road. Also: Helene Klein Pineland Preserve, Saw Palmetto Natural Area, West Creek Pineland Natural Area and Daggerwing Nature Center.

Of Note: Unlike the Lee Road (headquarters) entrance to Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, the Loxahatchee Road and the north entrance (Southern Boulevard) are open 24 hours. There is an entrance fee, $10 as of this writing, collected on an honor system, with annual passes available at $25 (Buy at the Visitors' Center). National annual and lifetime passes also get you in.

Links: The Institute for Regional Conservation's inventory of plants for Loxahatchee is here. The Great Florida Birding Trail is here. Also, the Friends of Loxahatchee NWR is here and the Facebook page is here. All links are for Loxahatchee as a whole and not specifically for the Broward Entrance.

Virtual Tour

Cover Photo: During the day, we humans like to think we have dominion over the waters of Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. We shaped this place, after all. But at night, in our absense, it becomes fully wild. The alligtors, guardians of the Everglades, own this place.
Click on the photos below for full-sized images and detailed descriptions.

  • Vast Open Water
  • South into the Everglades
  • To the North
    north view
  • For the birds
    tree islands
Getting There ...
The entrance sits six miles west of U.S. 441 along Loxahatchee Road in Parkland. From the east, take either Palmetto Park Road or Hillsboro Boulevard to 441; from Palmetto Park, head south; from Hillsboro, head north. Look for Loxahatchee Road at the Broward-Palm Beach line and head west until you enter the refuge.

Photo Gallery for Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge — Broward

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.