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93. Savannas Preserve State Park, Port Saint Lucie, Florida

Visit this coastal state park to find Wood Storks, ibises, herons, Brown Pelicans, Florida Scrub-Jays, and Roseate Spoonbills.
By Jamie Hansen | Published: 6/25/2010

Mostly undiscovered amid sprawling Port Saint Lucie, this natural oasis attracts few people and a great mix of rare, even endemic birds.

In the 1970s, the land was destined to become yet another subdivision when a group of anglers fought to conserve it. Whenever I visit, fishers are out in force: White and Glossy Ibis commuting from a nearby rookery and Great Blue Herons and Bald Eagles hunting for largemouth bass and bluegill. Wood Storks and Sandhill Cranes work the grassy edges for insects and amphibians.

From my boat, I can observe three dramatically different ecosystems and the species that flock to each. To the west, the sometimes dry, often boggy pine flatwoods and dry prairie attract Great Horned Owl, Pine Warbler, and White-eyed Vireo. To the east, the Florida Scrub-Jay flits across the high, sandy area known as the Atlantic coastal ridge. The charismatic bird is endemic to Florida’s endangered scrub environment, and the Savannas harbors one of the few spots where the jay still lives. Finally, from atop the ridge, I can scan the brackish Indian River lagoon, the barrier islands, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond for Osprey, Brown Pelican, plovers, terns, and the occasional frigatebird. — Jamie Hansen

Jamie Hansen is a nature and science writer. She directed interpretation at Savannas Preserve State Park for two years.

93. Savannas Preserve State Park, Port Saint Lucie, Florida

Directions

Savannas Preserve State Park is the largest and most intact remnant of Florida’s east coast freshwater marsh. From north- or southbound I-95, exit at SW Gatlin Blvd. and drive east 2.8 miles to SW Port St. Lucie Blvd. Drive 5.8 miles to Hwy. 1, turn left, and go two miles to Walton Rd. Turn right and continue for 1.9 miles to the park entrance on the left.

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
27°17’59.89″N 80°16’16.64″W

Habitats

Pine flatwoods, dry and wet prairies, freshwater marsh, Atlantic coastal scrub ridge.

Terrain

Generally flat. Often wet or sandy. Two wheelchair-accessible trails at the Education Center; ramp at canoe launch also accessible. Bird by car on road through dry prairie to marsh.

Birds

Winter and spring (wet season): Nesting Bald Eagle, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Wood Stork, Great and Snowy Egrets, Little and Great Blue Herons, and Tricolored Heron. Migratory: Snail and Swallow-tailed Kites, Roseate Spoonbill, Purple Gallinule, Eastern Towhee, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. Year-round: Florida Scrub-Jay, White Ibis, Sandhill Crane, Osprey, Anhinga, Wood Duck, Pileated Woodpecker, Pine and Palm Warblers, Red-bellied Woodpecker, White-eyed Vireo, and Loggerhead Shrike.

When to go

Year-round, but highly dependent on rainfall. Birding is best when water levels are high but not flooded. Call ahead for a report.

Amenities

Education Center offers checklist, recent sightings book, trail guides, and interpretive exhibits. Ask at the center about kayak trips or guided birding tours. Restrooms, water, and snacks at the center; restrooms also at canoe launch and southern Jensen Beach entrance.

Access

State park. $3 per vehicle. Open every day. Education Center open Thursday through Monday, 9-5.

Tips

Sparse tree coverage, so bring sunscreen and water. If water levels are high, be prepared to wade the trails. In spring, get to the canoe launch at sunrise to catch an impressive morning flight from a nearby rookery.

Sites nearby

Indian River
Just east of Savannas Preserve State Park. Drive south along the estuary toward Jensen Beach and scan for wading birds and Osprey.

Pelican Island NWR

About an hour north of the Savannas via I-95 and Hwy. A1A. Our first national wildlife refuge. Wood Stork, Roseate Spoonbill, Least Tern, Black Skimmer, American Oystercatcher.

For more info

Savannas Preserve State Park, (772) 398-2779.
Martin County Audubon

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