The primary purpose of the 221-square-mile Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is to provide habitat for wildlife of the northern Everglades. The refuge is hemmed in by a canal and dike system designed to impound and protect the marshlands within. The pleasant 5 1/2-mile Everglades Canoe Trail, beginning near the visitor center, provides an introduction to the northern Everglades ecosystem, which includes wet prairies, sloughs, sawgrass, and tree islands. Large numbers of waterfowl, especially Blue-winged Teal and Ring-necked Ducks, congregate in the pools during winter. The Mottled Duck, a southern Florida and Gulf coast specialty that closely resembles the more widespread American Black Duck, is abundant year-round. Fulvous Whistling-Ducks are common in fall and winter, and the Masked Duck, a tropical vagrant, has been seen on rare occasions. A variety of shorebirds visit here, including large populations of Black-necked Stilts, Spotted Sandpipers, and both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. By far the most sought-after bird is the Snail Kite. The kite nests in the refuge and is seen in all seasons foraging for Florida Apple Snails over the marshes. Ask at the visitor center about recent sightings.
Loxahatchee is mostly water, but two short nature trails provide access for walkers. The nearly 1/2-mile Cypress Swamp Boardwalk passes through a lush cypress swamp, and the nearly 1-mile Marsh Trail circles around a freshwater impoundment and leads to an observation tower. Limpkins, rails, bitterns, and a variety of long-legged waders are easily observed along the Marsh Trail.
No motorized boats are allowed on the Everglades Canoe Trail. Canoeists are also permitted on the canals but must compete with motorboats there.
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