Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Werner-Boyce Salt Creek State Park, 3/15/2017

Located in Port Richey, FL, Werner-Boyce Salt Creek State Park, is one of Florida's newest state parks. It opened in 2001 but construction continues in various areas of the park, particularly the main entrance. Currently, there are three areas open to the public: the main entrance; the Scenic Drive Trail Head; and the Black Rail Trail

The main entrance is open to the public while the areas under construction are roped off. A large observation deck (where bathrooms will also be located) is being built. A boardwalk will extend from the building through the Salt Creek marsh to the Gulf of Mexico (which will be awesome when it is complete). A kiosk near the parking lot provides some information about the facilities available for visitors including: four walking trails; kayak launch; and picnic tables. 

First we walked the short Eagle Tree stopping for a few moments to enjoy this small lake.

There is an area (shown below) for visitors to view the bald eagles that have a nest nearby. The nesting area is fenced off to protect them (per federal law). One of the eagles is behind the tree branch on the left...but you can only see a small portion of its feathers. He took off a minute or so later, presumably in search of food, a majestic sight!

Here are some fun facts bald eagles:
- A nest can weight 2,000pounds;
- Their talons can puncture Kevlar; and,
- Florida parks have both year-round and migratory bald eagle populations. 

We returned to the parking area and went to the Nature Trail on the other side of the lot. Crossing the bridge over Salt Spring Creek, we took the Spring Trail on the left.

As we continued along the Spring Trail, we came to another small observation deck. These decks enable you to get a view above the marsh grasses.  

Picnic tables are can be found along the creek. Leashed dogs are permitted on the trails. Here is Sadie with her head in some palms...  She loves the new smells she finds along the way. While Salt Spring Creek looks small, it is 320 feet deep!

Next we drove to the Scenic Drive Trail Head (directions can be found at www.floridastateparks.org/content/directions-werner-boyce-salt-springs-state-park). The entire park is 4,000 acres with 800 of it uplands and the remaining 3,200 are wetlands (submerged). In this area the water table is very close to the surface. Again, a kiosk provides information and a map. Also, a picnic shelter and a single restroom can also be found next to the lot. The .5 mile loop Nature Trail begins near the parking lot. 

The ferns along the trail were just lovely in the bright sun, as were the cabbage palms that grow beneath slash pines. 

Sadie continued to sticking her nose into anything she can find of interest, although she did pause to pose for me for just a moment on this interesting tree

You never know what you might see along the trail. There were several painted rocks, like this one, positioned in trees. 

The woodpeckers, and other wildlife, have made good use of this dead tree, constantly providing renewal of the upland hammock. Although no gopher tortoises were seen on our hike, there is an "in-use" burrow near the parking lot. 

Our final stop at the park, was the Black Rail Trail. You need to drive to it as well. A kiosk provided information about this part of the park and trail. At each of these locations, it should be your first stop. 

Eventually we came to the huge marsh. Due to recent heavy rains, though, we could not continue on the trail through it (didn't have the right boots on!).

We came to an area that is being cleared. These sabal palms created such an interesting view, like a boneyard. Sadie had such fun here!

As we returned to our car, we spotted these this great white heron and snowy egret in a canal next to the road.

The trail here is named for the black rail, a small, dark-grey bird with white speckles on its back. They are commonly found in coastal salt marshes and been sighted here. However, they are rarely seen (and most likely to be seen in the early morning). 

We enjoyed our time outdoors today in all three locations of the park. Currently there is no admission fee in any of the three locations. If you plan a visit, check to see if the new observation deck and boardwalk over the marsh is open yet. It's fantastic to see Florida investing in its beautiful natural environments. You can access information here: www.floridastateparks.org/park/Werner-Boyce.

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