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Halpatiokee Regional Park
Halpatiokee Regional Park is a very nice park just east of I-95 at 8303 SW Lost River Road in Stuart, Florida. It has plenty of parking. The trail runs along a waterway covered by nice trees. I decided to hike here because I had hiked earlier at another park further south and it was high and dry so I assumed this park would be dry also. I know this park has a great trail and I ran into an older couple that told me this is the best trail in Martin County! Park by the round-about and you can find the start of the trail from there. Just head east on the sidewalk and you'll find it.
Parking for Trail
Follow Sidewalk to Trails
You'll first come to some trails that are paved and go through the woods for a short distance. Once you walk these then you can continue on and go onto the trail that follows the waterway. You will see a trail on your left when walking on the sidewalk, just take it.
Mix of Sun & Shade
Tread softly and you may encounter a northern river otter foraging along the edge of the river. Fish, frogs, turtles and muskrats are it's favorite foods. River otters have a dark brown dense fur coat, which is often silver on the chin and chest, a long tail, short legs and webbed feet. Playful by nature, you may see them rapidly swimming in the water or rolling in the vegetation along the river bank. River otters may grow to three and a half feet in length and reach up to sixteen inches in height.
Northern River Otter
Look overhead and you may catch a glimpse of an osprey returning to its nest or perch with a fish in its talons. These large birds of prey (raptors) plunge into the water feet first to catch fish, their primary food source. Ospreys are rarely found far from water, so don't be surprised to see a nest nearby. Ospreys will build their nest in a large tree, power pole or nesting platform built by people. The nest is built of sticks, seaweed, bones, driftwood and other materials and is repaired each year by the pair. Ospreys are found on every continent except Antarctic and once were listed as endangered due to the pesticide DDT. Ospreys are still listed as endangered in some states but because of the banning of DDT, and nesting platforms built by people, they are making a recovery.
Small Wooden Footbridge
As you meander along the riverbank, notice the tea colored water, this is a blackwater stream. A rare community in Florida, the tea color is the result of tannins, iron and particulates that flow through the surrounding marshes and swamps. The dark colored water reduces light penetration and thus limits photosynthesis and growth of submerged aquatic plants. In shallow or slow moving areas, you may encounter floating or emergent aquatic vegetation, however, the steep banks and the seasonal fluctuations in water level, reduce their presence. Blackwater streams support a wide array of wildlife. Gar, shad, pickerel, sunfish, darters, shiners, water snakes, turtles, and river otters are common inhabitants.
There are a lot of beautiful wading birds here including the Great Blue Heron, Ibis, Little Blue Heron, and Anhinga.
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
As you look out at the treeless wet prairies at Halpatiokee, notice the dense ground cover of grasses and herbs. Typical species include wiregrass, toothache grass, maidencane, spikerush and beakrush. The greens and golds of this treeless expanse are dotted with the pinks and yellows of wildflowers such as marsh pinks, meadow beauty and black eyed-susans. Wet prairies occur on low, flat, poorly drained terrain; hence they are flooded or saturated for 50-100 days each year. Fire plays an important role in maintaining this ecosystem. A burn interval of 2-4 years prevents prairies from being invaded by woody shrubs like wax myrtle. Be sure to watch for little grass frogs, black racers, killdeer, American kestrels and marsh rabbits.
Many of Florida's communities are adapted to fire. Fire provides many benefits to natural communities by reducing competition among species, retaining biological diversity, releasing nutrients into the soil, aiding in seed dispersal and maintaining wildlife habitat. Florida's natural communities have suffered from year's of fire suppression and as a result, biological diversity has decreased. Prescribed fire is one tool that land managers use to restore the health and integrity of Florida's natural communities.
As you explore the hammock community, be sure to take a closer look within the canopy trees. The canopy is home to a group of plants known as epiphytes. Epiphytes are plants that live on other plants. However, these plants are not parasites - they are capable of photosynthesis and thus do not harm their hosts. Keep an eye open for bromeliads of the genus Tillandsia, including Green Wild Pine, Red Wild Pine, Ball Moss and perhaps the best well-known member, Spanish Moss. Many bromeliads will trap rainwater and debris within their leaf axils indirectly supporting an aquatic microcosm high above the hammock floor. Watch out; however, within this microcosm reside microscospic plankton, larvae and insects.
A unique habitat, the bottomland forest community occurs in low-lying flat lands bordering streams with distinct banks. Water rarely overflows the stream channel to flood the forest. As you walk along the trail, notice the dense canopy cover, shade and high humidity. Plant species diversity is very high and includes an array of wetland and upland species, including live oak, water oak, red maple, dahoon holly, cabbage palm and tupelo. Screech owls, pileated woodpeckers, southern ringneck snakes, gray foxes and bobcats are all common inhabitants of the bottomland forest.
Boat Launch at Campsite
I stopped for lunch at the hiking campsite. It is right by the water and boat launch where I can enjoy watching the water. I ran into the man who owned the Kayak. This is the second time I've run into him here in different years. He comes here often and he told me he had a heart attack and lost a percentage of his hearts ability to function and yet he is still out here paddling on the water and enjoying nature. What a spirit! It is a beautiful day today and some water surrounding the trail but mostly off of it. This park is close to town and I-95 so it is easy to get to.
Nice Bench by Water
What a Great Day!
This is one the nicer parks I've been to and if you enjoy hiking, off road biking or kayaking, canoeing, then you will love this park! Have fun!
Address: 8303 SW Lost River Road, Stuart, Florida 34997
Phone: (772) 221-1419
Area: over 500 acres
Management: Martin County’s Ecosystem Restoration and Management Division
*Some Information provided by Halpatiokee Regional Park.
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