Where can you experience a wetland ecosystem in Perdido Key?
Just north of the key, you'll encounter the wonderful world of the freshwater wetlands. This part of the county is low, wet, and “swampy”. These valuable wetlands provide many benefits for our environment. In many of these wetlands, there are walkable areas to get you up close to give you an authentic natural experience.
What are wetlands?
Did you know that wetlands are not always wet? Wetlands can go years with little or no water. So how do you define an area as “wetland”? The two primary indicators are hydric soils and indicator plants. Hydric soils may appear dry on the surface but if squeezed by hand will yield water. The plants that live there must adapt to the low oxygen and nutrients found in hydric soils. Obligate plants are those that MUST live here; such as black willow, dahoon, and pitcher plants.
Types of wetlands in the Perdido Area
There are three different forms of wetlands found in lower Perdido. Seepage wetlands are low areas where the source of water “seeps” from the aquifer below and the water level is relatively constant. Basin wetlands are areas that trap rainwater. The source is not constant and can be dry for long periods of time. A marsh is a wetland consisting primarily of grasses, a bog low growing shrubs, and a swamp is mainly trees.
Types of animals found in a wetland environment
There are a variety of animals found in the wetlands of lower Perdido. Amphibians and reptiles, make their homes in these areas but usually like to stay clear of humans. There are a variety of birds; Wading birds, woodland birds, and raptors can all be found here – so bring your binoculars. Opossum, raccoons, and armadillos are common but usually not seen. Some have even mentioned finding signs of black bear, though there have been no reports in lower Perdido. Many insects and spiders live in these areas, some of these are really beautiful and are great subjects for photography.
Where can I view these wetlands?
Innerarity Point Road
“THE WAY” is a short trail designed and developed by Master Naturalist Jerry Patee. The small loop traverses’ cypress, marsh, bog, and some upland habitats. It is not long and is handicap accessible. The trail runs from Perdido United Methodist Church to Bayou Garcon and back.
Galvez Landing is a county-owned boat ramp where you can launch your kayak or paddleboard and paddle the small islets of “Old River.”
Gulf Beach Highway
Big Lagoon State Park. This state park has hiking, biking, kayaking, snorkeling, and camping. It is a great camping spot and the folks that work there are tops.
Southwind Marina. At Southwind, you can find a charter for fishing or diving and can even hunt lionfish if you want.
Pensacola NAS. You must enter the Naval Air Station from the west gate off at Gulf Beach Highway and Blue Angel Parkway. Aboard NAS there is Trout Point Hiking Trail and the view from atop the lighthouse is worth the fee, and the legwork, to get there.
Bill Dickson Boat Ramp. This county-owned ramp is off of Gulf Beach Highway on the upper end of Bayou Grande. This is a great location for paddling marsh habitat.
Tarkiln Bayou State Park. This is part of the Big Lagoon Park system. There are three hiking trails (1.5 miles, 2 miles, 7 miles) where you can explore the wetlands of lower Perdido. Bald eagles have been seen here!
Perdido Bay Country Club. As you enter the road leading to the country club, there is a small county park with a boardwalk to Bayou Garcon. It is a good spot to view and photograph marsh habitat.
Blue Angel Recreational Center. To use the camping and kayak facilities, you must be active or retired DoD but civilians can pay to use the disk golf course. This facility is right on Perdido Bay.
Herron Bayou Boat Ramp. This county-owned boat ramp is at the corner of Highway 98 and Dogtrack Road. From here you can paddle saltmarsh habitat and access Perdido Bay.
These areas are waiting to be discovered by you.
Rick is the Florida Sea Grant Agent for the UF/IFAS Escambia County Extension office. A native of Pensacola, Rick had an early interest in the world of water and, like so many others who loved Cousteau, headed out to become a marine biologist. He studied marine biology at Dauphin Island Sea Lab while a student at Troy University and received his master from Southern Mississippi. He focuses his interest on estuarine ecology and is a big fan of diamondback terrapins. When not doing Sea Grant programming for the community he and his wife Molly like to canoe, camp, hike, snorkel, and sail.