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11 – Welcome to the Refuge

Welcome to the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, located in the historic and picturesque northern Everglades. It is one of the more than 560 national wildlife refuges across the United States. Our National Wildlife Refuges are very different from our National Parks, because refuges are managed first and foremost for the protection and preservation of healthy wildlife habitat.

This Refuge was established in 1951 to preserve a portion of the once vast northern Everglades. "Loxahatchee" is a Seminole Indian word meaning "River of Turtles". In 1986, congress expanded the name of the refuge to honor Arthur R. Marshall, an influential conservationist and Everglades advocate. The entire refuge comprises about 221 square miles, surrounded by a 57-mile canal and levee.

Most of the Refuge is marsh — open wetland punctuated by tree islands and sawgrass. By contrast, the 400-acre Cypress Swamp on the eastern edge of the refuge is a shady wet forest. This Cypress Swamp once bordered the entire northeastern portion of the Everglades, stretching from present-day Fort Lauderdale to north of Lake Okeechobee.

The Refuge is the first of three Water Conservation Areas in South Florida. It provides water storage and flood control for South Florida residents and agricultural areas. One out of three Floridians, or about 7 million people, depend on the Everglades for their water supply. Our main entrance is at Lee Road off of US 441, 2 miles south of Boynton Beach Blvd. At this entrance you'll find our Visitor Center, where you can take a virtual airboat ride, crawl through a gator hole, or experience what it would be like to spend a night in the Everglades, listening to the sounds of the birds, frogs, and other creatures of the night. Shop in the book and gift store run by the Friends of the Refuge, and relax in the tranquility of our butterfly garden. Stroll the easily accessible Cypress Swamp boardwalk through ferns and towering cypress trees, adorned with Spanish moss. At the Visitor Center pick up a map and get advice on upcoming activities and points of interest. Hike the marsh trail and take our self-guided tour. Paddle into the interior of the refuge on our canoe trail. You can rent a canoe or kayak or bring your own. Hike or bike the bicycle trail along the levee. Exploring the Everglades; a spectacular and unique ecosystem is an unforgettable experience; whether hiking on foot, canoeing or watching a film in our accessible visitor center. Refuge staff and volunteers welcome you, our visitors, to your Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Please enjoy yourself, follow all regulations to be safe and come back often.