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|JOHN D. MACARTHUR BEACH STATE PARK
At a time when natural areas along south Florida's coast are almost nonexistent, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park stands out as an "island in time." It preserves the natural heritage of subtropical coastal habitat that once covered southeast Florida.
The park encompasses 225 acres of uplands and another 535 acres of submerged lands. Visitors can explore both maritime hammock (seaside hardwood forest) and mangrove communities.
A 1,600-foot boardwalk spans Lake Worth Cove. Mangroves surrounding the Cove comprise the most productive estuarine system in all of Lake Worth. Herons, ibis, roseate spoonbills and osprey hunt for prey, while fiddler crabs scuttle among the roots of the "walking trees."
At the beach end of the boardwalk, on the west side of the dunes, lies a coastal hammock. A trail winds through mixed temperate and subtropical trees, including cabbage palms, mastic trees, gumbo limbos and strangler figs. On the beach, sea lavender, beach star and other rare native plant species thrive. Along the ocean shoreline, brown pelicans, terns, sandpipers and other shorebirds may be seen resting and feeding.
MacArthur Beach is also a prime nesting area for sea turtles. Large numbers of loggerhead, green and leatherback turtles nest in the park from early May through late August. Marine life is abundant along the offshore reefs and rock outcroppings within the park. These spectacular natural features, easily accessible from shore, make snorkeling a popular activity in the shallow waters.
Because it is a natural barrier island, the park also protects the mainland from harsh ocean storms. Shifting beach sands absorb wind and wave energy.
To keep the area as natural as possible, roads and structures were designed around rare trees and other plants. Non-native species, such as Australian pine and Brazilian pepper, are removed.
The park's 4,000 square foot Nature Center contains exhibits, displays and a video interpreting the barrier island's plant and animal communities. Programs are given to adult and school groups, as well as the general public, on a broad range of natural history subjects.
The earliest evidence of human occupation of this area comes from artifacts recovered from "kitchen middens" located in the park. Native Americans who settled this area, gathered food from the ocean and lake. Fragments of bones, shell and pottery were discarded in refuse piles or "middens."
In the early 1900s, Munyon Island was famous for its lavish resort hotel, "The Hygeia." Built by Dr. James Munyon, the hotel was destroyed by fire in 1915. Munyon Island is not presently open to the public.
The park is named after the previous property owner, John D. MacArthur, who wished to preserve it for future generations to enjoy. In the 1970s, after a university study convinced MacArthur that the property was a biological treasure, he donated a section for use as a public park. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation contributed additional funds to help develop the park and Nature Center. Facilities opened to the public in 1989.
John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is located 2.8 miles south of the intersection of U.S.1 and PGA Blvd. on A1A in North Palm Beach.
For more information:
John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
10900 S.R. 703 (A1A)
North Palm Beach, FL 33408
Nature Center: 561/624-6952.
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