A 51-acre sliver of public land amid riverfront acreage in once-rural Stuart off Kanner Hwy, Delaplane Preserve provdes a unique perspective on the St. Lucie River.
Its well-groomed nature trail leads to an observation deck where South Fork of the St. Lucie feeds the river north of where the main channel reaches a dam.
The river was first dammed in 1925. The Army Corps of Engineers built current the St. Lucie Lock and Dam in 1944, turning the river flowing from Lake Okeechobee into a ditch.
The perspective at the confluence shows the difference in the rivers, the wild shores of the South Fork a counterpoint to residences along the dredged waterway.
Resources for exploring the area
Disclosure: As authors and affiliates, we receive earnings when you buy these through our links. This helps us provide public information on this website.
Location: Palm City
Length: 0.7 mile round-trip
Trailhead: 27.13100, -80.25995
Address: 6084 SW Gaines Ave, Stuart
Land manager: Martin County
Open sunrise to sunset. Leashed pets welcome. Mind private property signs.
From Interstate 95 exit 101, Kanner Hwy, follow SR 78 north. Turn left onto Salerno Rd at the traffic light immediately north of Race Trac at the Publix shopping center. Drive one block and make a right on Gaines Ave at the stop sign. Continue 0.6 mile to the trailhead on the left.
Starting out as a broad and well-graded path beyond the trailhead kiosk with its map, the nature trail at Delaplane Preserve offers a quick and easy interpretive walk.
While its destination is the key reason for coming here, savor the surprisingly quiet walk through the pine forest.
Unlike other preserves nearby, this is a genuinely peaceful place, buffered well by the forests from the road noise of nearby highways.
A marker notes the valued help of an Eagle Scout in removing invasive species from the flatwoods understory.
The gentle curves reveal new understory perspectives on each bend through the pine flatwoods.
Halfway along the hike, a small bridge conveys the trail over a drainage area before a quick turn.
After the next curve in the trail, a mangrove marsh creeps along the edge of the forest.
Pause at the bench along the causeway through the marsh for a birding stop.
The trail curves through the marsh on its elevated berm, reaching a low decorative fence along a private road.
Ushered through a curve, it emerges at a parking area for local residents to put-in at a ramp adjoining the deck.
At 0.4 mile, take all the time you need to savor the river views from the deck and its picnic table.
Don’t forget to look up! Even if there are no birds perched overhead, the bromeliads put on quite a show.
The return route from the river confluence follows the same route but goes much more quickly as it is now familiar.
Note the tropical hammock plants in parts of the understory, yielding to ferns and shrubs in the pine flatwoods.
Finish the round-trip hike at the trailhead after 0.7 mile.
A virtual walk in the woods at Delaplane Preserve
See our photos of Delaplane Preserve
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Tunnel through mangroves after pausing to watch birds in a freshwater wetland in this habitat-rich preserve along the St. Lucie River.
Beyond its prominent ballfields, Halpatiokee Regional Park hides a rich network of hiking, off-road biking, and paddling trails along the South Fork of the St. Lucie River
Formerly known as Rocky Point Hammock, Maggy’s Hammock Park protects 22 acres of tropical forest and scrub on the Atlantic Coastal Ridge in Port Salerno