Amid the squeeze of subdivisions in Port St. Lucie, Oxbow Eco-Center provides a natural escape, with room to ramble on its network of named trails.
The trail system is centered on a well-presented Exhibit Hall and Discovery Center that tells the story of the habitats and their inhabitants.
There is an outer 3.8 mile loop and many shorter options. A spur trail shows off scenic views of the river from a bluff.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Port St. Lucie
Length: 3.8 mile loop
Trailhead: 27.353654, -80.354626
Address: 5400 NE St James Dr, Port St. Lucie
Restroom: At the nature center
Land manager: St. Lucie County
Trails open sunrise-sunset. Bicycles are not allowed. Paddlers are welcome to visit via the canoe dock on the Otter Trail.
Boardwalks provide a limited amount of access for wheelchairs and strollers at the start of the Blue Heron Trail.
Nature center hours are Tues-Sat 12-4 PM. Check their website for details on environmental and summer camp programs.
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.
For a counterclockwise hike on the trail system, follow the Gopher Tortoise Trail to your right as you exit the nature center.
It leads into the pine flatwoods. Keep left at the first fork and right at the second fork, heading towards the canoe dock.
Here, start the Otter Trail. It climbs a bluff above and along the North Fork of the St. Lucie River.
River views open up between bromeliad-laden oaks and cabbage palms. Watch for paddlers and for manatees.
Passing the Scrub-Jay Trail, keep following the Otter Trail down a dead-end spur until it ends. It’s worth the walk for the views.
Return to the Scrub-Jay Trail, which leads through a showy hydric hammock before it emerges into pine flatwoods.
Meet a T intersection with the Blue Heron Trail, the main loop in the preserve. Turn right to stay with the perimeter loop of the trail system.
Take the side trails along this walk for a view over a prairie pond and an overlook on a prairie.
Here, hooded pitcher plants grow, the southernmost point you’ll see them along this coast.
Continue around the prairie to finish this 3.8 mile hike back at the nature center.
See our photos of Oxbow Eco-Center
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Buried in a sea of development in Port St. Lucie, Oak Hammock Park is one of those little gems that shouldn’t be missed, thanks to its dense hammock of live oaks
At Spruce Bluff Natural Area, trails lead to the site of a pioneer settlement and the largest Ais mound in South Florida amid scrub and wetlands in Port St. Lucie.
Spanning two counties along a slender 10-mile strip, the fragile freshwater savannas and open prairies of Savannas Preserve State Park are just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean and lie behind a line of ancient sand dunes.