Photo By Chris Harshaw
If you were to name the best places to visit in Boynton Beach, you’d probably miss the Green Cay Wetlands and Nature Center. It overlooks 100 acres of wetland and reveals a whole new world of local fauna and flora.
However, most people make this mistake because they are unaware of the beauty that lies within the marshy landscape.
I thrive on nature and adventure; that is how I stumbled across this reserve. My close encounter with wildlife turned into the perfect escape from the mind-numbing hustle and bustle of the concrete world.
Henceforth, I was eager to share the experience with you.
Here’s a sneak peek of what it offers:
The Origin Story: From Farm to a Nature Reserve
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us…”
– Endymion, John Keats
Ted and Trudy Winsberg were no poets, but they certainly did appreciate nature as much as Keats. The couple dedicated more than forty years of their lives to the Green Cay Farm in Boynton Beach. Like many farmers, they witnessed their carefully cultivated cropland transform into commercial space.
In 1999, Ted and Trudy realized that their property would fall prey to commercialization. That is when they took matters into their own hands by striking a deal with the county. They sold the property for 1/3 of its appraised value upon one environmentally friendly stipulation — at least 100-acres of their land restored to its pre-farm condition.
The Palm Beach County Utilities Department and Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Departments were eager to withhold their end of the bargain. Construction (or rather the deconstruction) of the farm began in the summer of 2003. After that, the bell pepper farm transformed into a marshy habitat for the Everglades ecosystem.
Most excavators and developers had ‘hand-planted native species’ of adult marsh plants. They did this to reintroduce the natural Everglades ecosystem into the previously drained agricultural land. In a way, the Green Cay Wetlands are a human-made nature reserve, carefully constructed to return it to its pre-farm days.
Are you interested in learning more about the behind-the-scenes story? Learn how the farm turned into a wetland by watching this enlightening interview with Eva Matthews.
Top Things to Do at Green Cay Wetlands Nature Trail
The boardwalks allow visitors to experience nine different zones of sub-tropical habitats. Each area uncovers a unique aspect of the ecosystem. It’s all condensed within the premises to give visitors a taste of the local flora and fauna.
Photo By Asbruckman
Here’s a sneak peek of a day at the wetlands:
Take a Leisurely Stroll on the Boardwalk
Green Cay Wetlands cover a lot of ground. You can view it all as you cross the 1 ½ boardwalk trail as the raised platform surrounds shimmering water from Palm Beach County’s Southern Region Water Reclamation Facility. The aquifer filters the water and brings it back to the natural system. In turn, this refuels groundwater resources and facilitates the region’s natural water cycle.
Moreover, the path features traditional Seminole chickee huts built by natives to offer shade and reprieve to tired tourists. Additionally, you can enjoy a self-guided tour by following the helpful signage placed at each zone’s beginning. Alternatively, people interested in athletic pursuits can use the platform as an open-air exercise space. Feel free to come here and stretch your legs by running a few laps.
Photo By Johnskate17
Explore the Fantastic Four
The vast marshland comprises four general zones sub-divided according to plant life and wildlife (forming nine distinctive habitats). It includes a cypress island, cabbage palm hammock, wet prairie, and more.
The primary zones include:
· The Deep Zone
The open water pond areas are approximately four feet deep. They are home to waterfowl and diving birds.
· Tree Islands
The islands of trees are sprawling with native Cyprus trees, pond apple, Virginia willow, and other flora raised at the height of one foot above the waterline.
· Forested Wetlands
They rise 6-feet above the waterline and are the highest areas within the premises.
· Freshwater Marshes
The emergent marshes are nesting grounds for sparrows, rails, and moorhens.
Grab a Camera and Catch the Native Fauna in Action
Ever wondered what nature would look like if we let it thrive and flourish at its pace. The Green Cay Wetlands allows Mother Nature to take over to maintain this diverse landscape. Bird watchers can come with binoculars to spot feathered friends.
These marshlands are home to blackbirds, gulls, wren, swallows, jays, hummingbirds, and more. You can also head over to the Alligator Hole to find red-bellied turtles, peninsular cooter, alligators, and frogs that grunt like pigs. Seeing all these species in one place makes it a haven for nature enthusiasts.
Make Memories that Last Forever at the Nature Center
Located on Hagen Ranch Road between Boynton Beach Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue, the Green Cay Nature Centre (which is approximately 9,000-square-foot) is the first stop for many visitors. The air-conditioned Nature Centre is home to several wildlife exhibits. Here you can have one-on-one encounters with the resident reptiles (i.e., turtles, snakes, and alligators). Or, seek words of wisdom from the rescued mascot, Oliver the Owl.
Families planning a trip to Boynton Beach can schedule a coordinated visit aligned with the center’s educational programs. Expect many fun interactive activities for little learners and engaging tours for adults. You can return to the center after your trail adventure to get a souvenir from its adorable gift shop.
Pro tip: Visit the official Palm Beach County website to recheck the operational hours before your visit. There may be variances due to Covid restrictions.
Final Words: A Nature Trail
In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re a nature enthusiast or not. The Green Cay Wetlands and Nature Trail can be an enlightening experience for visitors of all ages. Take a break from the sun-kissed shores of South Florida to witness the splendor of this scenic oasis. Walking amidst wildlife and the untouched marshy swamp can prove to be quite refreshing and invigorating.
Are you planning a trip to Boynton Beach? Remember to save a spot for the nature reserve center in your itinerary.
Hope to see you there.