Boyd Hill Nature Preserve
A precious oasis in the midst of Florida’s most densely populated county where you will find 245 acres of preserved habitat, five miles of hiking trails and boardwalks, aviary with live birds of prey, 5 ecosystems, gators, tortoises, eagles, ospreys and much more. The Boyd Hill Nature Preserves offers visitors a variety of ways to enjoy the beauty from daily tram tours to extensive nature programs. But, we found the best way to enjoy all the beauty of the real Florida is taking the simple way of walking along the various trails. So many things were sited along the path of a place less traveled. Many different trails allow you to view all the parks unique features and natural areas.
Lake Maggiore Island:
Our first stop was to view the shaded by spreading live oaks, the island looks out on Lake Maggiore. Perched in dead branches, cormorants and anhinga’s fan their wings out to dry, turtles sun themselves and alligators drift by. Here we found many baby gators taking in the Florida sun.
From here we went to view the Willow Marsh where coastal willow’s slender leaves provide food for orange dancing viceroy butterflies. The boardwalk passes over the much muck which provides a home for a variety of large ferns, hinting an almost prehistoric flavor. Twelve-foot fronds of leather ferns lift above the boardwalk. Here you’ll find plenty of lizards and epiphytes (or air plants) on the trees.
Boyd Hill Nature Preserve is home to a diversity of wildlife. On the trail we encountered Osprey and Bald Eagles with several nests they make their home. You may encounter any of the 212 species of birds or 59 species of butterflies that make the preserve their home. Orange and iridescent green wings of the butterfly are like jewels hovering over the many wildflowers. The American alligators bask in the sun’s warmth and the gopher tortoises munch on the new shoots of grass everywhere. During the walk we witness literally hundreds of burrows marked with white markers where the tortoises make their home and nesting ground.
Like the column of a forest mansion, tall pines shade the trail. Here you’ll find pileated woodpeckers on the pine and tall snags.
Winding along a creek, the path and boardwalk are shaded by bay, cypress, sugarberry and red maple trees. Box turtles hide in the leaf litter on the forest floor. The golden orb weavers spin their perfect web between the branches.
History and the Sand Scrub Trail:
Stop at the park’s nature center and learn more. Over 12,000 years ago Florida was almost twice its current size. This place was the center of the vast scrubland stretching from horizon to horizon. Today, turkey oak, sand pine, and wiregrass hint of that distant time. Fall wild flowers cover those fields with color. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve is the home of gopher tortoise. This is one of the most endangered habitats in the world.
Preserve Amenities and Schedule:
In addition to about five miles of different walking trails and boardwalks you will enjoy at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, you’ll also find plenty of picnic areas, playground, grills and tables, kayak and canoe rentals, and even daily tram tours. There is also a schedule of nature programs and classes that start at the environmental education center and gift store. Classes offered include everything from Hatha Yoga to Pine Needle Basket Weaving. The monthly calendar that can be picked up during your visit or checked out on-line. There is also a rapture and aviary center. The trails close ½ hour before the park closes. The park is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m.-7p.m.; Saturday 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m.- 7 p.m. and is closed on Mondays and major Holidays (hours are slightly shortened from Nov-February. The Boyd Hill Nature Preserve is located at 1101 Country Club Way S., St Petersburg, Florida 33705. For more information visit www.stpeteparkrec.org/boyd-hill. You can also call 727-893-7326 for additional information.