The 147,392-acre (596.47 km2) Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge includes the most northern remnant of the historic Everglades wetland ecosystem. Located in Palm Beach County, Florida, west of Boynton Beach, Loxahatchee is one of over 500 national wildlife refuges located throughout the United States and administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge not only preserves and protects native wildlife, but also offers compatible public recreational and educational opportunities including walking trails, a canoe trail, bike trail, boat ramps, fishing platform, observation towers, butterfly garden, and a visitor center. It is home to American Alligator, the endangered Snail Kite, and as many as 257 species of birds. As such, it has been designated a 'gateway site' for the Great Florida Birding Trail.
Not quite all of the 147,392-acre (596.47 km2) refuge is Everglades marsh habitat. A 400-acre (1.6 km2) Bald Cypress swamp is the largest remaining remnant of a cypress strand that once separated the pine flatwoods in the east from the Everglades marshes. A boardwalk into the swamp gives the visitor a chance for an up-close swamp experience without getting his or her feet wet. Hurricane Wilma damaged the refuge in October 2005, and the administration building was condemned.
Boardwalk through the swamp
Despite all of its treasures, the refuge is in serious danger of quickly becoming an exclusive haven for invasive plants, especially the Broad-leaved paper bark (Melaleuca quinquenervia) and Old World climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum), both rapidly growing non-native species, which are quickly overgrowing the native flora and are likely not compatible with the native wildlife.
This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.