The Hillsboro Pineland Natural Area
Do yourself a favor and don't pass it by
By Dan Mackey / July 1, 2017
There's a lengthy stretch of forested land just north of Hillsboro Boulevard on the east side of U.S. 441 that will transport you back to a time when wild rivers meandered here between the Everglades and what is now the Intracoastal Waterway.
Thanks to the county's foresighted 1989 Environmentally Sensitive Lands Bond Acquisition program, the 56.3-acre Hillsboro Pineland Natural Area survives as the last remnant of what once was a vast landscape of marshes broken by wet prairies and upland pine flatwoods. It is one of the most diverse ecosystems left in northern Broward.
Once the location of the headwaters of the historic, meandering Hillsboro and Cypress Creek rivers, today water is pumped from the C-5 canal into the prairie, depression marsh and cypress tree dome to keep them wet. Without this artificial rehydration to replicate natural seasonal flooding, these critical habitats would not be able to sustain plants and animals that have lived here for centuries.
The peaceful preserve is home to species including red-shouldered hawks, wood warblers, owls, woodpeckers, squirrel treefrogs, spotted skunks, gopher tortoises, wading birds, and multiple species of butterflies that feast on numerous native wildflowers.
Voted Best Natural Area in 2016, mixed vegetation includes towering old slash pines, saw palmetto, myrsine, gallberry, staggerbush and beautyberry, cypress trees, swamp fern, sword fern, wax myrtle, and muhly grass. Colorful flowers include yellowtop, coreopsis, firebush, starrush whitetop, and rarely seen tarflower.
Two trails more and an elevated boardwalk totaling more than 2,000 feet were designed for hikers of all skill levels. A third trail - an old gravel and tar road - winds through pineland bordering a residential area. Admission is free and it is directly accessible on U.S. 441.
Pets are not allowed, as this is a passive use preserve for the study and appreciation of nature. No bicycles, inline skates, skateboards are permitted on the two trails and boardwalk. But do bring your baby strollers.
Take an eNaturalist Tour
Photo signage on the walk provides fascinating information on the history of the Hillsboro River and identifies some of its myriad wild inhabitants. The unique Broward County eNaturalist video- and audio-guided tour QR codes on other trail signs can be scanned with your smart phone to enhance your one-mile loop walk. These signs also contain Braille for the visually impaired. Other amenities include covered overlook shelters for respite and bird watching, restrooms, and benches.
For children 8 years and older, these hikes led by a county naturalist awaken your senses to reveal the site's distinctive wild nightlife such as owls. Sturdy shoes are recommended. The fee is $5 per person. Pre-registration and pre-payment are required. Call 954-357-5100.
Environmental and Scouting Programs
Appreciation of nature is the focus of the programs at Hillsboro Pineland. Opportunities include activities for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, children's programs, school group field trips, private group tours, and more. Call 954-357-5113 for more details and to make reservations.
During October through May on the fourth Saturday of the month from 9am until noon, volunteers clear Hillsboro Pineland of garbage and invasive plants. Children 13 to 17 must have a parent or guardian's signature; children under 13 may participate if accompanied by an adult. Call 954-357-5100 or visit broward.org/parks for workdays registration form.
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