Protecting 225 acres of natural habitats along the North Fork of the St. Lucie River amid a squeeze of subdivisions in Port St. Lucie, Oxbow Eco-Center provides room to ramble. Centered on a well-presented Exhibit Hall and Discovery Center that tells the story of the habitats and their inhabitants, the trail system includes a 3.8-mile loop with several shorter options. A spur trail shows off scenic views of the river from a bluff.
Location: Port St. Lucie
Length: 3.8 miles
Lat-Long: 27.353654, -80.354626
Type: loop with shorter options
Fees / Permits: free
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: moderate
Restroom: at the nature center
The trails are open dawn-dusk. Nature center hours are Tue-Fri, 12-5; Sat, 10-5. Boardwalks provide a limited amount of access for wheelchairs and strollers at the start of the Blue Heron Trail. Bicycles are not allowed. Paddlers are welcome to visit via the canoe dock on the Otter Trail.
The Eco-Center holds summer camp programs and regular programs for children and adults alike year-round. Check their website for details.
From Interstate 95 exit 126, CR 712 (Midway Road), drive east to 25th St / St. James Drive. Turn right on St. James Drive and follow it south to the park entrance on the left.
Walking counterclockwise on the trail system, follow the Gopher Tortoise Trail to your right as you exit the nature center, walking into pine flatwoods. Keep left at the first fork and right at the second fork to walk down to the canoe dock and start the Otter Trail, which climbs up a bluff along the river’s edge, providing great views through bromeliad-laden oaks and between the cabbage palms. Passing the Scrub-Jay Trail, follow the spur to its end – it’s worth the walk for the views.
Return to the Scrub-Jay Trail, which leads you through a hydric hammock before emerging out into the pine flatwoods at a T intersection with the Blue Heron Trail, the main loop in the preserve. Turn right to stay on the perimeter loop. Take the side trails for a view over a prairie pond and an overlook on a prairie where hooded pitcher plants grow, the southernmost point you’ll see them along this coast. Continue around to finish the hike at the nature center.