Region: Northern Palm Beach County
Size: 12,841 acres
Hours: Daily from sunrise to sunset
North and south of PGA Boulevard, approximately 2.2 miles west of Florida's Turnpike, in Palm Beach Gardens. Most of the natural area is located north of PGA Boulevard, east and west of the main channel of the C-18 Canal. A smaller tract is located between PGA Boulevard and the Bee Line Highway and a third tract is located between the Bee Line Highway and Northlake Boulevard.
Public Use Facilities:
A parking area for 14 cars and an open area for horse or boat trailers or buses, restrooms, picnic tables, horse hitch posts, a bicycle rack, a boat launch area and floating dock for small boats, a canoe/kayak launch area, an observation tower, and access to the main leg of the C-18 Canal are located at the City of Palm Beach Garden's Sandhill Crane Access Park on the north side of PGA Boulevard. The accessible trails are comprised of crushed rock. There are designated hiking and equestrian trails in the natural area as well two multiuser (hiking, biking, and equestrian) trails, Bluegill Trail and Pântano Trail. Bluegill Trail extends north from Sandhill Crane Access Park 5.5 miles along the east side of the C-18 Canal levee and connects with Riverbend Park in Jupiter. It is improved with shell rock for pedestrian and bicycle use with an adjacent grassy swale for equestrian use. Approximately 2.5 miles north of Sandhill Crane Access Park there are horse hitch posts and a pitcher pump well with non potable water. Four kiosks with educational exhibits are located along the trail, and there is a wetland overlook near the north end of the portion of the trail within the Slough. Pântano Trail extends from Riverbend Park 7 miles southwest along the west side of the C-18 Canal and then on the north side of the C-18 West Canal through Loxahatchee Slough to the Bee-Line Highway. This multiuser trail surface is currently unimproved. Equestrian use and bicycle use are permitted on designated trails only. Fishing is only permitted from the banks of the C-18 Canal.
The Loxahatchee Slough Natural Area is the largest and most biologically diverse natural area managed by Palm Beach County. It contains the historic headwaters of the Loxahatchee Wild and Scenic River and has nine native Florida ecosystems: mesic flatwoods, wet flatwoods, mesic hammock, hydric hammock, wet prairie, depression marsh, slough marsh, strand swamp, and dome swamp. Palm Beach County acquired 10,391 acres of the site in 1996 and 2,190 acres during the period 2000-2007. The County also leases 257 acres from the South Florida Water Management District and 3 acres from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for management purposes. Extensive restoration activities have been conducted on the site to restore areas impacted by overdrainage, agricultural uses, and invasion of nonnative plant species. This work included mechanical removal of invasive nonnative vegetation, filling of drainage ditches and shell mining pits, and replacement of culverts leading to the C-18 Canal. The natural area is part of the Northeast Everglades Natural Area. Palm Beach County manages the site with the assistance of the City of Palm Beach Gardens. The Florida Trail Association maintains the 4.5-mile segment of the Ocean to Lake Trail (hiking only) that passes through the natural area.
Plant species observed on the site include pineland daisy, jack-in-the-pulpit, Florida tasselflower, fringed yellow stargrass, southeastern primrose willow, swampforest beaksedge, bulltongue arrowhead, fireflag, red mulberry, and swamp bay.
Animal species observed on the site include Florida applesnail, handsome Florida grasshopper, gray-green clubtail, redear sunfish, little grass frog, striped mud turtle, wood duck, Florida sandhill crane, bobolink, and Sherman's fox squirrel.