A ridgetop once surrounded by the grassy waters of the Everglades is the highest natural landform in Broward County, just 29 feet above sea level, at Pine Island Ridge Natural Area in Davie.
In the uneasy years between the Second and Third Seminole War, Abiaka and his fellow Mikasuki tribesmen traversed the River of Grass to this ridge, returning from forays to their village on this patch of pine rocklands above the wet grasslands.
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Length: 1.8 mile round-trip
Address: 3900 SW 100th Ave, Davie
Fees: $1.50 per person weekends and holidays, under 5 free
Restroom: at the nature center in Tree Tops Park
Land manager: Broward County
Open 8 AM to 6 PM daily. Pets are not permitted. Do not disturb any artifacts.
Primary access for walking into this park means parking at Tree Tops Park, which may be busy on weekends. Pine Island Ridge Natural Area is a passive park and much quieter.
From Interstate 595 west of Florida’s Turnpike in Davie, take Nob Hill Road south for 2.6 miles to the park entrance on the left. Follow the park entrance road back to the park office and nature center.
Start your hike by walking over to the park office at Tree Tops Park to pick up a map and look at the interpretive displays regarding Abiaka and the Mikasuki on Pine Island Ridge.
Exiting out the back door, walk down the side stairs and turn left to follow the paved walkway. At the T intersection, turn left.
The paved path loops around the back of the center under a canopy of spreading live oaks.
You pass a bronze statue of Abiaka, and the sign “To Pine Island Ridge.” A paradise tree rises out of the understory of wild coffee.
Crossing a horse trail and a bridge, you come to an open gate leading into Pine Island Ridge.
The paved path continues uphill into this linear park. Houses crowd the edges of the greenway strip. Plunge into the cool shade of ancient live oaks swaddled in resurrection fern and epiphytes.
Chunks of limestone remind you of what lies beneath your feet, the dense limestone bedrock of South Florida.
At 0.4 mile, you reach a fork. Turn right, and make a right at the T intersection. Tall slash pines crown the hill.
At next T, keep right. After meandering out along the shadeless ridge, with its scattered pines, the paved path ends, becoming a jeep track stretching out to a gate in the neighborhood.
Turn around and return to the hill. At the fork in the trail, keep right and climb up to the top of the hill, where the Seminole village once stood, dating back to at least 1828.
Surrounded by sawgrass prairies, three islands made up this settlement, a haven for refugees from the Second Seminole War. Abiaka proved his military mettle against the U.S. Army in the Battle of Okeechobee, December 1837.
As a result, the U.S. Army both respected and feared what Abiaka would do next.
On March 22, 1838, just a few months after respected Seminole leader Osceola died in prison, Lieutenant Colonel James Bankhead and Major William Lauderdale encountered the Pine Island settlement with their troops.
While the Seminoles had taken defensive measures, the U.S. Army attempted to surround them on three sides, using rowboats in the deeper water and soldiers wading through the shallows.
Outnumbered and outmaneuvered, Abiaka gathered up his people and vanished deeper into the Everglades, abandoning Pine Island.
In later years, after the wars, Seminole refugees once again made their home on the high ridge, but the drainage of the Everglades around them forced them to move to uncontested ground.
When the pavement ends, cross the grass to the far side of the hill. At the junction of trails, go straight, and keep to the right at the next fork, following the paved path as it flows around a large slash pine.
Passing a couple of jeep trails, you arrive at a small pavilion. A hiking trail leads away from it to the right.
Follow the bark chip path into woods into a thicket of wild coffee and beautyberry under the oaks. When the trail splits, keep left.
Although this is disturbed land, the trail is an attempt to show you the natural undeveloped environment of Pine Island, where Abiaka and his family once lived.
Gumbo limbo and red bay tower overhead. The trail winds behind houses.
At the “Loop Trail” sign, turn left and continue down the narrow path. Large bromeliads grow from the crooks in the trunk of a red bay.
A bed of sword fern thrives in the shade of a live oak. As you come up to a fence line, the trail turns to the right past a coontie, perhaps the descendant of one planted by the Micosukee for starch.
Passing by a papaya tree, you finish the loop. Turn left to walk back down the trail, keeping right at the fork so you emerge at the shelter.
Follow the paved path back to the trail junction, and keep to the right to follow it back to the gate at Tree Tops Park.
From the same trailhead, take a hike at Tree Tops Park
Tree Tops Park
Climb into the forest canopy to browse among the bromeliads amid the ancient live oaks at Tree Tops Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Chapel Trail Park Nature Preserve
Preserving 450 acres on the edge of Pembroke Pines, Chapel Trail Nature Preserve makes an excellent birding destination as well as an easy-to-reach sampler of Everglades flora and fauna
Secret Woods Nature Center
Designated the first “urban wilderness area” in Florida in 1978, Secret Woods protects a 56-acre floodplain of cypress strand and mangroves with uplands of tropical hammock
Anne Kolb Nature Center
Whether it’s from the top of a five-level observation tower or at ground level with the land crabs, Anne Kolb Nature Center focuses on the urban mangrove forest that it protects and interprets
Fern Forest Nature Center
A bounty of ferns awaits at Fern Forest Nature Center, where more than two miles of trails introduce you to a slice of Florida’s past, a tropical forest surrounding the original floodplain of Cypress Creek