Laura Herren -
3300 Lewis Street
Fort Pierce, FL 34981
phone: (772) 429-2995
fax: (772) 429-2999
Office hours: 8:00 � 5:00 M-F
The Loxahatchee River - Lake Worth Creek Aquatic Preserve is a small dynamic estuary
(where freshwater meets saltwater) in northern Palm Beach and southern Martin Counties.
The Loxahatchee River consists of three forks: North, Northwest, and Southwest (C-18).
These three freshwater tributaries drain into the Loxahatchee River Estuary, which
opens easterly to the Indian River Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean. Lake Worth Creek lies
south of the estuary.
The Loxahatchee River - Lake Worth Creek Preserve is divided into two sections: the
Wilderness and Urban Preserves. The Wilderness Preserve (Wild and Scenic River portion)
is upstream of river mile 5.5 along the Northwest Fork and is managed by maintaining the
existing wilderness (animals and plants) condition. The remainder of the preserve,
designated Urban Preserve, is managed by restoring and enhancing the natural condition
of the resources.
The Loxahatchee River � Lake Worth Creek Aquatic Preserve was adopted under Florida
Statutes Section 258 by the State of Florida on November 2, 1970 and is managed by the
Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed
Areas (CAMA). The preserve is listed in the Aquatic Preserve Rule, Chapter 18-20 Florida
The preserve is located in Southeast Florida. A major section occurs within northern Palm
Beach County, and a smaller section in southern Martin County. The Village of Tequesta and
the City of Jupiter border the preserve, as does Jonathon Dickinson State Park (Division
of Recreation and Parks) to the north. The preserve lies west of the US1 bridge in Jupiter
and the Lake Worth Creek portion extends south to Marcinski Road.
The Loxahatchee River � Lake Worth Creek Aquatic Preserve encompasses 9,000 acres.
Cities and other water diversions have affected the drainage of the river by shrinking the
drainage basin from 270 square miles to 210 square miles.
The preserve area is a small dynamic estuary important in this region for its value to
fishing, boating and wilderness experience. The three forks of the Loxahatchee are
freshwater tributaries upstream and are characterized by riverine communities such as
freshwater and tidal marshes. Near and within the estuary,
mangrove communities are predominant
with submerged resources including tidal flats,
seagrass beds, and oyster bars. Lake Worth Creek contains mangrove fringes and
The aquatic preserve contains various aquatic habitats such as mangroves, freshwater swamp,
seagrass beds, oyster bars, and tidal flats. The marshes and associated plants along the
river provide nursery habitat for juvenile fishes, crabs, shrimp, turtles, snakes, and
alligators. The plant communities also reduce erosion of the sediment and produce detritus
(dead organic matter), an essential food source in aquatic environments. Birds also roost
and nest in riverfront trees such as mangroves.
The preserve contains recreationally and commercially important species such as blue crabs,
mullet, snook, and tarpon. Visitors enjoy fishing, boating, and watching animals such as
manatees and birds in their natural environment.
Jupiter Inlet historically opened and closed naturally. The inlet has been permanently
opened and the lower Loxahatchee changed from a freshwater marsh system to a tidally
influenced estuarine system. The Loxahatchee River cuts through the Atlantic Coastal
Ridge, which separates the Eastern Flatwoods to the west from the Atlantic Ocean to the
east. The C-18 canal system drains the Loxahatchee Slough and glades to the west and
drains into the Southwest Fork.
State Park maintains a list of 26 sites with archeological and cultural significance
associated with the Loxahatchee River basin. Sites of interest include Indian middens and
battleground from the Second Seminole War. Also, the outpost of Trapper Nelson, known as
the "wild man " of the Loxahatchee, is located along the Northwest Fork. The
cabin and wildlife zoo remain today from this early 1900s woodsman and the site is open to
the public for a nominal fee.
The aquatic preserve is utilized for recreational and commercial boating, fishing, and
nature watching. The adjacent state park offers hiking trails, camping, and places to
launch boats and canoes. The park is also used for environmental education purposes.
Because of the rapid residential / urban growth and input of agricultural drainage canals,
the health of the Preserve has been affected. The C-18 canal causes massive amounts of
freshwater to drain into the river basin and forces saltwater into the North Fork of the
river, thereby altering the historical natural communities. The preserve does play host to
a vast array of plant and animal species, but many are threatened by the extensive
development and the freshwater drainage of the C-18 canal. Major issues in the Preserve
include leaching of pollutants from local septic tanks which contributes to a documented
decrease of dissolved oxygen in the River. The local state park and the Loxahatchee River
Control District also provide on-site management and education about the River.
The Loxahatchee River � Lake Worth Creek Aquatic Preserve Management Plan