“You’re in the wrong place”. What do you mean I’m in the wrong place, the directions said Grassy Waters Preserve and I’m looking at the water right now? “You took a left, go further down and take a right.” What I wouldn’t give for good directions……….
So was the beginning of my hiking adventure through Grassy Waters Preserve. Grassy Waters Preserve is located just west of the Beeline Highway on Northlake Blvd. Correction, it’s on both sides of Northlake; heading west the first entrance is on your left. The second entrance is about two blocks further west on your right.
The Island Chain:
Grassy Waters Preserve is a 23 square mile wetlands ecosystem that serves as the freshwater supply for the City of West Palm Beach and the towns of South Palm Beach and Palm Beach Island. Historically, Grassy Waters was both a key component of the Greater Everglades watershed and the headwaters of the Northwest Fork of the Loxahatchee River
Today’s trail was affectionately named Hog Hammock which made me immediately think of Pigs in a Blanket. Don’t ask me why, maybe it’s time for lunch.
Seriously though, Hog Hammock trail sits on the Hog Hammock Island Chain, which is a geologic formation known as Pleistocene Sand Ridge. During the Ice Age, at peak glacial stages, the sea level was as low as 400ft below its current level and Florida was three times its size. When the glaciers melted, the sea level was as high as 100ft above its current level.
See, it’s not a trail, its an island chain. Thankfully, the sea is low enough and there aren’t any dinosaurs to chase around, although there is one creature left over from that era; the alligator. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for him.
The First Loop:
As the trail leaves the parking lot, it runs parallel to a clear stream where small fish and turtles can be seen. Shortly after, you’ll encounter a fork with several signs. One says this is part of the NENA trail system, the other has trail info. It’s a loop so it doesn’t matter, but staying right provides the more scenic options quickly.
Several long boardwalks zigzag over the wetlands and provide ample views of the forest. It’s always tempting to look down from a boardwalk, but remember to look up. Colorful air plants, birds nests and other displays of nature can be seen.
Promontory Trail connection:
As you follow the trail, you’ll soon find yourself at a crossroads. One sign points left and says Exit, the other points right to Promontory Trail which dead ends in 1.1 miles.
The trail may dead end, but you have to go see what’s out there. You’re already this far out anyway. The trail is a tree lined berm with occasional access points leading off. Some lead off to boardwalks with covered overlooks and others just lead off into the water or grasslands.
I can imagine alligators, deer, and other wildlife using these as cross over points. One side of the trail has the familiar lily covered water that you just know is home to some alligators. I looked and looked, but didn’t see a one.
The other side is grassy wetland that has the potential to be a huge rookery at the right season. While I didn’t see much wildlife at mid- morning, I’m sure early morning or late evening would yield much better results.
As you near the exit on the return, there are a couple of areas with picnic tables to enjoy lunch or a take a break. After exiting the trail, there are more picnic tables and another trail that I’ll have to explore on my next visit.
Several people I talked to didn’t know this trail was here. Everyone is familiar with the boardwalk at the first turn off but not the second one. It’s amazing what you find when you venture a little further down the road.
If you’re wondering what was at my first stop, stay tuned for some amazing photographs!!
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