Secluded and special, Haw Creek Preserve nestles up along the shores of Haw Creek, a blackwater stream that slowly flows towards Crescent Lake from the marshlands of Flagler County. Protecting nearly a thousand acres, this county preserve offers an easy boardwalk trail set well above the floodplain, enabling you to enjoy spectacular fall colors, a dense forest canopy, and an array of spring and fall wildflowers.
Length: 1.3 miles
Fees / Permits: free
Bug factor: moderate to high
Restroom: at the trailhead
The trailhead also serves as a launch point for Haw Creek Preserve State Park – literally, as the state park protects the other side of the creek and can only be explored by canoe or kayak. In addition to the boat ramp, there are picnic tables and grills, and restrooms up on the high ground.
From the intersection of SR 100 and US 1 in Bunnell, drive west on SR 100 for 7.5 miles to SR 305. Turn left. Drive south on SR 305 for 4.1 miles until you reach CR 2006. Turn right. After 1 mile, turn left on CR 2007, a dirt road, at the large “Russell Landing” sign. Drive 2.2 miles, passing the Pellicer Community Center. The road enters Haw Creek Preserve and ends at a parking area.
Starting near the boat ramp, the boardwalk quickly lifts you up above the forest floor for an immersion into the floodplain forest of Haw Creek, dense with cabbage palms and sweetgum, hickory and cypresses. Cardinal wild pine grows in profusion along the trunks of pond cypress.
At the first turnoff, turn right. You arrive at a platform along the creek, where a bench provides a peaceful place to sit and look over the placid dark water. The stands of cypress on the far side are thickly blanketed in bromeliads. Sweetgum leaves reflect in the inky flow.
Returning to the main boardwalk, turn right. Dappled shadows of cabbage palm fronds lie across the trunks of live oaks. Light green goldfoot ferns and long dark green streamers of shoelace fern dangle below the fronds of a cabbage palm as you come up to the next turnoff. Turn right and walk down to the platform, passing an array of colorful sweetgum and red maple reflected in a shallow swamp. The platform overlooks a bend in Haw Creek, where young pond cypresses crowd the curve. In the cove to the left, largemouth bass jump for flies, leaving trails of bubbles as they sink to the bottom.
Head back to the main boardwalk and turn right. It crosses over a channel that shows signs of occasionally flooding down into the creek. Scattered deerberry grows throughout the floodplain. Follow the next boardwalk to the right for another look at Haw Creek from a broad overlook which is excellent for birding, especially for swallow-tailed kites.
Back on the main boardwalk, turn right to continue. Bluejack oaks arch over the trail, providing a canopy for the younger cabbage palms, many with streamers of shoelace fern. At the next side trail, turn right and walk down to the platform, the last one along the creek. Looking out over the broad expanse of water, you see tiny islands upstream, covered in pennywort and elephant ears, providing hiding places for hooded mergansers and limpkins. Returning back to the main trail, turn right.
The boardwalk starts to turn left, away from the creek, into the shadows of ancient live oaks. In spring, a dense bed of blue flag irises flanks the boardwalk with its purple blooms. As the boardwalk ends, it drops you out into a large open field, with a building on the far side. This is the group campsite, available to backpackers by permit.
Returning to the parking area along the boardwalk, savor the deep shade from the live oaks and peer up into their branches to spy orchids and bromeliads. You have the option of taking any of the side trails back to the creek again, or you can simply stay along the main boardwalk for a 1.3-mile round-trip.