Established in 1951, the Refuge protects a remnant of the once vast northern Everglades. It provides habitat for native fish and wildlife populations, including endangered species such as the Everglade Snail Kite and Wood Stork. Alligators are more numerous here than in the southern Everglades. Many indigenous species of plant and insect life also make their homes in the Refuge. Deer, otters, raccoons, and even a bobcat can be spotted by a lucky visitor.
"Loxahatchee" is a Seminole Indian word meaning "River of Turtles". In 1986, Congress expanded the name of the Refuge to honor Arthur Raymond Marshall, Jr. (1919-1985) an influential conservationist and Everglades advocate.
The Refuge is one of more than 560 in the National Wildlife Refuge System. This system, with units in every state in the nation, is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, an agency of the Department of Interior. The agency leases most of the land from the State of Florida. The entire Refuge comprises about 226 square miles or 145,062 acres, surrounded by a 57-mile canal and levee.
The Refuge operates through a license agreeement between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the South Florida Water Management District. The Refuge encompasses Water Conservation Area #1, one of three in South Florida. It provides water storage and flood control for South Florida residents and agricultural areas. Water is regulated by a series of pumps, canals, water control structures and levees built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Most of the Refuge is marsh - open wetland punctuated by tree islands and sawgrass. By contrast, the 400-acre Cypress Swamp is a shady wet forest on the eastern edge of the Refuge. Cypress swamp once bordered the entire northeastern portion of the Everglades, from present-day Fort Lauderdale to north of Lake Okeechobee.
The interactive exhibits in the Visitor Center opened to the public on October 17, 2009. The Virtual Airboat Tour and the Night Sounds of the Everglades are two of the most popular.
The Cypress Swamp Boardwalk and the marsh areas are accessible by foot. The boardwalk is a 0.4-mile trail that loops through towering cypress trees, pond apple trees, ferns and other flora of the swamp.
The 0.8-mile Marsh Trail is one of several walking trails along the grass levees that encircle impoundment areas, where water levels are adjusted to provide habitat for various types of wading birds and other wildlife.
A 12-mile Bike Trail runs the length of the levee along the perimeter canal from the boat ramps near the Visitor Center to the boat ramps near the southern entrance of the Refuge. Mountain or hybrid bicycles are recommended, rentals available.
The 5.5-mile Canoe Trail provides the best way to see and explore the Everglades up close. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent. Boating and canoeing are allowed in the perimeter canal, as is sport fishing. Hunting for waterfowl is allowed in a designated area by permit. State regulations for hunting and fishing licenses apply.
More than 300,000 people visit the Refuge every year. Public-use areas at the Refuge provide viewing opportunities for a large variety of wetland flora and fauna. The Refuge is part of the Everglades Trail and the Great Florida Birding Trail. The Refuge Bird List includes over 250 species.
Visitors will discover a variety of scheduled Events at the Refuge, including tram tours, bird and nature walks, canoe tours, swamp strolls and the annual photo and art contests. The most popular event is Everglades Day, which takes place annually on the first or second Saturday in February. Ranger-led school tours are available by appointment - call (561)732-3684.
Handouts describing the plant and animal communities of the northern Everglades are available in several languages: