Pondhawk Natural Area

Boca Raton, Palm Beach County

gopher tortoise
1501 Spanish River Boulevard
Boca Raton


Pondhawk Natural Area isn't huge. But, for it's size, it is fairly diverse, especially if you include adjacent Blue Lake, which is a magnet for wading birds and ducks. Palm Beach County, which owns and manages Pondhawk (along with the city of Boca Raton), restored the western shore of the lake and the land west to Military Trail to a more natural state, making it a haven for native plants and animals, including some considered threatened or endangered.

There is scrub, scrubby flatwoods, a hydric hammock (live oaks andcabbage palms), a restored basin marsh that recalls a time when a large portion of area was wetlands and, if you include Blue Lake, open water. Both scrub and scrubby flatwoods are rare habitats.

The variety of habitat make Pondhawk an interesting place to explore. The whole natural area can be walked in a couple of hours. Oh and if you don't know, the inspiration for the name of the natural area comes from the mighty pondhawk dragonfly.

History: The land on which Pondhawk Natural Area sits was once part of IBM's massive Boca Raton campus, which once covered more than 600 acres and employed nearly 10,000 people. It's also where where Big Blue developed the first PC back in the 1980s. In the years that followed, IBM drasticly reduced its South Florida operations and sold off the land. In 2000, Boca Raton bought 300 acres of the former IBM campus for the construction of a library, parks and other public uses. Years earlier, two Florida Atlantic University professors working for Palm Beach County evaluated the land, which had never been developed, and recommended that it be bought for use as a nature preserve. The city sold 78.7 acres to Palm Beach County in 2002. Pondhawk Natural Area opened in 2012.

What You'll See: Along the shores of Blue Lake, we've spotted great blue herons, white egrets, pied-billed grebes, moorhens, coots, mottled ducks and, depending on the season, blue-wing teals. We've seen six-lined racerunners, gopher tortoises, cottontail rabbits and armadillos. In the scrub: coastalplain staggerbush, fetterbush, goldenrod, tarflower, saw palmetto, scrub oaks, Walter's groundcherry, cutleaf groundcherry and sand pines. Lots of sand pines. And a lot more plants and animals.

Amenities: There are three hiking trail, a .71-mile paved trail, the .53 North Trail and the .80 South Trail, the later two being natural surfaced. There is an overlook at the restored basin marsh, benches and interpretive signs. There is plenty of parking at the adjacent Boca Raton Library. Restrooms and drinking water are available at library during hours.

Nearby:Yamato Scrub Natural Area sits several miles northeast of Pondhawk; Delray Oaks Natural Area is several miles north of Yamato along Congress Avenue. Spanish River Park is four miles to the east, and south of park lies Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. Blazing Star Environmental Preserve is several miles southwest of Pondhawk.

Links: The Palm Beach County's managment plan can be found here.
Cover Photo: Probably the feature habitats of Pondhawk Natural Area, at least from an environmental standpoint, are the acres of scrub and scrubby flatwoods. And the animal that best represents these habitats is the gopher tortoise. They're one of our favorite animals and they're a keystone species, providing living space for countless species.

Click on the photos below for full-sized images and detailed descriptions.

  • Blue Teals on Blue Lake
    blue teals
  • The Basin Marsh
    basine marsh
  • A Transition Zone
  • A Day at the Beach
  • Basin Marsh: A Look Back In Time
    open water
  • Into The Woods
Getting There ...
Pondhawk Natural Area sits between Military Trail to the west and I95 to the east. Exit I95 at Spanish River Boulevard and head west. Look for the entrance to the Boca Raton Library on the north side and park toward west side of the lot. Pondhawk is across a pedestrian bridge. From the Turnpike, exit Atlantic or Glades Road to Military Trail. From Atlantic turn south to Spanish River and head east to the library. From Glades, head north on Military Trail. Note: To access Military from Glades, turn left at Butts Road just east of Town Center Mall. Butts connects with Military.

Photo Gallery for Pondhawk 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.