Best Nature Trail - 2009
Fern Forest Nature Center
Fern Forest is a natural oasis in the middle of Broward County sprawl. It's a preserved cypress swamp, a 243-acre piece of ancient Florida. The swamp was once part of a cypress strand that stretched all the way to Lake Okeechobee. Now it's just a peaceful and beautiful reminder of what we've destroyed. Fern Forest has four trails that run a total of about two miles and range from the wheelchair-accessible boardwalk (the half-mile Cypress Creek Trail) to the rugged and oft-muddy Maple Trail, which winds over roots and rocks right through the swamp. The place is full of all kinds of Florida fauna and flora, and the name isn't false advertising: It has an abundance of ferns that come in about 30 varieties, with names like resurrection, leather, polypody, and shoestring. One of the trails leads to a 20-foot-high platform overlooking an old cow pasture that is now occupied by gopher tortoises. Give yourself a few hours to experience the park. It can take a while to go that far back in time.