Saturday, October 4, 2014

Savannas Preserve State Park

Savannas Preserve State Park contains the largest, most ecologically intact stretch of freshwater marsh in southeast Florida. During the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), Lt. Colonel Benjamin Pierce first used the term 'savannah' to describe the series of ponds and marches found in this area, which stretches more than 10 miles from Ft. Pierce to Jensen Beach, encompassing more than 6,000 acres.

The Savannas are comprised of six natural communities. Each community is characterized by a distinct population of plants and animals that are naturally associated with each other and their physical environment. The communities consist of:
Pine Flatwoods
Wet prairie
Basin marsh (covers nearly 1,000 acres and is home to the largemouth bass, alligators, waterfowl and bald eagles)
Marsh lake
Sand pine scrub (home to the Florida scrub-jay and gopher tortoise)
Scrubby Flatwoods

The park is also home to a rare plant called, savannas mint that grows nowhere else in the world. It also contains nearly all of the remaining populations of the fragrant prickly-apple, an endangered cactus species.

There are many ways to enjoy the park including biking, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and horseback riding. There is also a small picnic area and an eco-friendly restroom. We had planned to hike for the day but the landscape changes dramatically with the rainfall and many of the paths were closed off due to flooding. We went as far as we were able to go and then we visited the Education Center. The staff was extremely friendly and told us about the numerous interpretive activities available to school groups and park visitors such as guided or self-guided walking tours, kayak, and canoe trips. There's even a moonlight kayak tour which I definitely want to try. 

The Education Center features interactive exhibits and displays on local history, the preserve's natural communities, plant and animal species, and live animal exhibits. 

We didn't have much luck with the hike but we did get the rare opportunity to watch these turtles mating. I've worked for several zoos and the circumstances have never been right to be able to witness what appears to be a fascinating feat of turtle acrobatics.

The entrance fee for the park is only $3.00 per vehicle and it's open 365 days a year. The Education Center is open Thursday-Monday.