"Wakodahatchee" is a Miccosukee word meaning "created waters," and these wetlands are just that. In its previous lives the property has been vegetable farmland and a repository for sewage sludge. Part of the holdings of the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department, it was essentially sitting there, wasted space in the midst of one of the fastest growing residential areas in the country, when it was decided to turn it into a filter marsh.
When opened, the marsh began receiving 90% treated water from the plant located about a mile away. Biologically sterile--and thus perfectly safe in terms of bacteria, etc. (and non-smelly)--the waste water is loaded with nutrients. Marsh plants of all kinds, planted by the builders, flourished.
Soon the 75 acres became home to a wide variety of animals, ranging from tiny mosquito fish to bobcats and foxes. What distinguishes Wakodahatchee and makes it a mecca for travelers, however, is the bird life. Here, at various times of the year, can be seen virtually every water bird native to southeast Florida, and many migrants in season.
A recent trip to the marsh, facilitated by a 1-mile raised walkway above the water, turned up a Least Bittern, five other species of herons, two Sora rails, an endangered Wood Stork, and several of the colorful Purple Gallinules that feast on the blossoms of the many fire flag plants, along with a couple of dozen more "common" birds. The raised viewing area makes it possible to see down into the foliage and spot the residents far more easily than from ground level. Since most marsh birds' enemies are at water level, the elevated humans don't seem to alarm them; they have become quite accustomed to human presence, and are amazingly tame. Sightings of the elusive bitterns and rails are routine at Wakodahatchee, drawing many bird watchers who have been unable to spot them elsewhere.
These created wetlands have become a mecca for lovers of birds--a "must see" stop for those serious about adding to their life lists. The many retirees from the surrounding communities come to walk, area residents enjoy the quiet in the midst of the hustle and bustle of busy Palm Beach County, and wildlife photographers sometimes seem to outnumber the feathered citizens.
Located about five miles west of I-95, the wetlands can be reached via the Woolbright Road exit, ten miles south of West Palm Beach. Go west to Jog Road, (about three miles,) and turn south. Look for the u-turn lane just past the Water Utilities Department regional offices on the east side of Jog, (about 2 miles,) make the turn, and take the first right. Wakodahatchee is open from dawn to dusk, 7 days a week, and admission is free. Don't miss it!
(All of the accompanying photos were recorded at the wetlands.)
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