Boyd Hill Nature Preserve
Boyd Hill Nature Preserve is a scaled-down version of natural Florida. The state’s habitats and its flora and fauna can all be seen in the park.
Boyd Hill Park Nature Preserve Florida, located on the shore of Lake Maggiore just outside St Petersburg, is a special park. An area of some 245 acres has been set aside as a preserve for native Florida species. Lake Maggiore is a natural lake and offers visitors an opportunity to view the flora and fauna and the marshy habitat that sustains them. What comes as a surprise though is how accessible this slice of natural Florida is – the habitats, the abundant birdlife, and the animals, especially alligators. It is right here in plain sight of downtown St Petersburg.
Boyd Hill Preserve has five distinct ecosystems within the park’s boundary. Each ecosystem is typical of the Florida landscape. The Preserve has a loop trail for each ecosystem and a boardwalk or trail runs through it for viewing the plants and sometimes getting a glimpse of the birds, animals, and insects that make each environment a home. Visitors have over three miles of trails to explore and get acquainted with the park’s features and inhabitants.
The unique ecosystems seen in the “Loop” trails represent Florida’s diverse landscape. These include Hardwood hammocks with clumps of hardwood trees standing as islands on higher ground to shelter animals and plants. The Sand Pine Scrub is unique to Florida and is possibly also the oldest environment found. This habitat needs forest fires to regenerate – fires clear out dry and dead scrub allowing new plants to take their place. Pine Flatwoods occupy the largest area of Florida’s forested landscape. Shaded by tall pines, the Flatwoods provide a sheltered canopy for a host of smaller plants, animals, and insects. Pine Scrub is yet another typical and distinct ecosystem found in Florida. Willow Marsh with its dense growth of ferns is a loop that suggests a prehistoric landscape. The Lake Shore is yet another distinct Florida habitat with its heavy growth of grass and reeds growing along the water. Each ecosystem is distinct yet is part of Florida’s varied natural environment.
Viewing alligators in their natural state is a major tourist attraction and a must among things to do in Florida. Alligators are plentiful in the park. Smaller alligators are seen in shallow water and some perch on low-hanging branches by the shore. The really big alligators take pride of place on the mudflats by the lake. On my last visit, I saw alligators of all sizes-small, medium, and large. There was one really big one stretched out on the muddy bank, soaking in the last rays of the sun. From where he lay he could see the dome of Tropicana Field and the St Petersburg skyline. In Florida, one is never far from alligators – The State’s Reptile.
They are everywhere and many ponds and lakes have signs that warn that alligators may be present. Animal services are constantly removing reptiles that stray into populated areas. In Florida, according to estimates, the number of alligators in the wild is said to be around a million. Alligators in their natural state may be seen in many of Florida’s parks. Many parks have boardwalks and observation decks for viewing Florida’s predators and other wildlife from a safe distance. The Preserve is also home to a variety of raccoons, rabbits, turtles, squirrels, and frogs. Varieties of snakes, including the diamondback, have been seen in the park.
As part of the Florida Birding Trail, Boyd Hill Park is host to a large variety of birdlife. Birds ranging from ducks, soaring eagles, and hawks to tiny warblers all visit the park. Migrating flocks also pass through. Herons of all types and colors, cormorants, anhingas and egrets are more frequently seen. Waterfowl are plentiful along the reeds and grass near the water. Also, the Preserve shelters disabled birds of prey – eagles, hawks, and owls. Unable to survive in the wild, these magnificent birds are cared for in the aviary.
Butterflies are regular visitors to the park. The park has a butterfly garden next to the Visitors Center. Depending upon the time of year, different species may be seen in the park. At the close of 2010, some 58 types of butterflies had visited the park. Swallow Tails, Whites and Sulphurs, Skippers and Brushfoots and Blues all may be seen in the Preserve.
The Preserve actively seeks the preservation of Florida’s environment through education. Classes are held at the Environmental Education Center with special classes for school children who also have their own play-and-learn area. Research projects are also important in the Preserve’s busy calendar. The park is popular with families and offers activities for visitors of all ages. The park’s amenities include a playground and a shaded picnic area. There is ample parking at the park and it is free.
Boyd Hill Nature Preserve is located at:
1101 Country Club Way South St. Petersburg, FL 33705
Tel: (727) 893-7326