Preserving 450 acres of Everglades habitats on the edge of Pembroke Pines, Chapel Trail Nature Preserve makes an excellent birding destination as well as an easy-to-reach sampler of the flora and fauna found throughout the greater Everglades ecosystems of Southeast Florida.
Location: Pembroke Pines
Length: 0.8 mile
Lat-Lon: 26.029029, -80.412720
Fees / Permits: free
Bug factor: moderate to high
Restroom: at the parking area
Open Mon-Sat dawn-dusk, Sun 8 AM-6 PM
Canoe rentals are available Saturday mornings 9-noon for $7/hr or $15/4 hrs. Call in advance to reserve: 954-450-6895
Dogs are not permitted
Follow Sheridan Street for 3.7 miles west from I-75 to the park entrance on the left at 19800 Sheridan St, Pembroke Pines, or from US 27 drive east for 1.3 miles to the entrance on the right.
Facing the open marsh, the entrance to the trail also serves as access to the rental canoes, providing an immediate panorama of a healthy urban remnant of the original Everglades ecosystem that once covered the lowlands of Pembroke Pines. Look for pond apples growing near the canoe launch. Interpretive signs are found all along the trail, making this a pleasant one for families and newbies to the Everglades.
The boardwalk starts to the right, tunneling through tropical vegetation. Expect to see red maples sporting fall colors during the winter months. Making a sharp left, the boardwalk is a long straightaway crowded by tropical hammock. Wild coffee and native lantana grow in the understory.
When the views open up, the boardwalk serves as a bridge over the waterway that paddlers follow. Periphyton, the goopy biomass of the Everglades, floats on the water below.
Making a bend, the boardwalk offers extensive viewing across the marshes in all directions. It’s here we saw what we thought were purple gallinules but were later informed were Asian marsh hens -- four pairs of them rooting through the reeds -- as well as a pair of coots.
The next straightaway leads to a covered shelter overlooking a small pocket of swamp. Before you reach the shelter, one more boardwalk reaches out to the south, spanning the heart of the marsh. Follow it to the end to the floating dock for the long views across the preserve.
Tricolor heron and great egret are common here as well. Scan the shallows for turtles, especially large softshell turtles. This is an excellent destination for both birding and wildlife watching.