The 221-square-mile refuge occupies the last of the northern Everglades. The wetlands were once connected with the Loxahatchee River (hence the name) 50 miles away, but the area between the two was dredged and developed long ago. For more than a half-century, the refuge has been kept alive by a series of pumps, canals, and levees. And we're happy to report that the project has been an astonishing success. Trek there yourself to see the thriving ecosystem of tree islands, sloughs, wet prairies, sawgrass, cattails, and open water. Alligators are everywhere, as are great blue heron, owls, anhingas, white ibis, and egrets. It's open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and it's good for a day of hiking, biking, or canoeing, all for five bucks a carload.

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