Atop Florida’s most ancient of landscapes, the Lake Wales Ridge, the Ridge Audubon Center at Babson Park has a mission of interpreting the uniqueness of the plants and animals that call this island of biodiversity home. Their family-friendly nature trails provide an interpretive walk around the center, identifying plants that you may have never otherwise encountered on a hike.
Location: Babson Park
Length: 0.3 mile
Lat-Long: 27.841383, -81.533717
Fees / Permits: free
Bug factor: low
Restroom: yes, when the building is unlocked
Phone: 863-638-1355. If the building is locked and you would like to see the nature center, check with a volunteer by calling 863-635-5667.
Although the building is usually only open from Oct 1 – Apr 30 by request and during events and meetings, the trails are open dawn to dusk daily. A trail guide with map is available at the trail kiosk. Pick it up so you can note the rare plants along the route. This is a stop along the Great Florida Birding Trail.
The center is along SR 17 between US 27 and Babson Park, at the intersection of SR 17 and Crooked Lake Rd.
Starting in front of the nature center, the Ridge Audubon Trail has 26 interpretive stations that identify key plants of the Lake Wales Ridge, a narrow string of ancient islands topped with rare and unusual species like the scrub hickory and scrub plum.
Look for these and others as you rise up from scrub habitat into the sandhills and back down again. The identification markers and interpretive brochure let you put a face on rare native plants that you might have only heard of before, like garberia and Britton’s beargrass.
Behind the center, follow the Lake Trail to where it ends above the college sports fields, with a view of Crooked Lake. Additional plant interpretation is along this very short path.
Hopefully, the Center will be open or a volunteer may drop by if they see your car in the small parking area. Inside, there are exhibits and literature pertaining to the natural and cultural history of the Lake Wales Ridge.