"Where can you take us to see an alligator in the wild without getting too close?" Chances are that if you ever find yourself hosting two or more out-of-towners, you'll be asked this silly, impossible question. The answer to your out-of-town trouble may just be a visit to this quirky, 50-acre wetlands preserve in suburban Delray Beach, preferably during the early-morning or late-afternoon hours if you want to catch some good wildlife action. The wetlands actually consist of converted percolation ponds used by the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management to reclaim treated wastewater -- and don't worry, you can't smell it. The ponds were modified to support a variety of vegetation types including aquatic, emergent, transitional, and upland plants and are now home to more than 100 species of birds, turtles, and, of course, alligators. A sturdy, one-mile boardwalk meanders through several of the small lakes; there are two observation points and plenty of signs to identify and inform your guests about the vegetation, birds, and other wildlife most common to the area. The wetlands are open from dusk to dawn daily, and admission is free.

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