One of the mysteries of the St. Johns River is its salt lakes, fed by pockets of prehistoric salt water less than ten miles from the Atlantic Ocean.
At the northern end of Seminole Ranch Conservation Area, an easy-to-follow trail to an observation tower provides a panorama across Loughman Lake, one of the larger salt lakes draining towards the river.
Lined by sea myrtles, the causeway provides an excellent spot for bird watching—look for flocks of glossy ibis, darting chimney swifts, and the yellow-crowned night heron.
Length: 1.2 miles
Fees / Permits: free
Bug factor: moderate to high
Depending on the season, you might find a portable toilet stationed down at the boat ramp at Hatbill Park, 1.3 miles farther along Hatbill Road. This hike is right down the street from Puzzle Lake.
From I-95 exit 223, Mims, drive 4.2 miles to Hatbill Road. Turn left at the sign for Lake Loughman. Drive 1.3 miles south on Hatbill Rd to the parking area off to the left, next to a gate. Do not block the gate.
Walk in on the causeway for 0.6 mile, ending your hike at an observation tower. The trail becomes impassable for hikers shortly thereafter, as Loughman Lake drains across the causeway, flowing towards Puzzle Lake. The trail continues extensively beyond the break, as shown on the conservation area map.