Best Place To Bird-Watch - 1999
Readers' Choice: Everglades National Park
South Florida is thick with amateur ornithologists -- you can't swing a booby around here without taking out a couple bird watchers. It seems that no matter what park you're in, someone is whipping out his Peterson to identify a particularly hot piece of plumage. Local hot spots include Tree Tops Park, West Lake Park, Loxahatchee Nature Preserve -- rewarding venues all. But if you like your fowl up-close and personal, check out Wakodahatchee Wetlands. Brought to you courtesy of the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department, Wakodahatchee is quite probably the world's best-looking sewage-treatment plant. These "created waters," planted with bulrush, slash pine, and sabal palms, are a magnet for birds and reptiles. A half-mile boardwalk keeps you nice and dry above it all, allowing you to get within feet of such finds as the elusive purple gallinule, the red-shouldered hawk, the belted kingfisher, and the great blue heron. Look down and you're likely to see snakes, alligators, and turtles. Admission is free, and Wakodahatchee is open seven days a week, dawn to dusk.