Golden Orb Nature Trail

The keys tidal barren is an almost desert like habitat. Here in this photo there is a trail through shrubby landscape

The trail is named after the Golden Silk Orbweaver spider; however, explorers along this trail will not likely find many. Numerous in number prior to Hurricane Irma’s destructive force in September 2017, this spider is now rare and elusive. Despite the absence of the spider, there is still plenty to be discovered along this one-and-a-half-mile walk. 

As soon as visitors take the first steps along the trail they, are transported into the world of hardwood hammocks. Hardwood hammocks are higher in elevation, and much dryer. Because of this change in ecosystem, a high diversity of tropical trees thrives and  serves as an important refuge for song birds. Here visitors can see the Gumbo Limbo and Poisonwood trees. White Crowned Pigeons (a state of Florida listed threatened species), can typically be found within these hardwood hammocks. The White Crowned Pigeons favorite food is the fruit from the Poisonwood tree. 

As you continue to make your way down the trail, to the human eye a barely unnoticeable elevation change occurs, but to the plants those few inches make all the difference. Travelers to this area will notice the plant life dramatically changes, and the canopy disappears; this is the Keys Tidal Barren (salt pan). At a lower elevation, the salt pan is subjected to the daily high tides and is often under small puddles of water. In this environment, shorter and smaller plants such as mangroves, wild dilly and joewood dominate the almost desert like landscape.  Due to the lack of canopy, the tidal barren can be an excellent spot to look up and bird watch. Small holes in the ground are created by the present Fiddler Crab. This semi terrestrial crab can be found scurrying in a side to side motion waving around a large claw hoping to attract a mate. At times there are so many of these crabs present, it seems as if the entire ground is moving.

At the end of the Keys Tidal Barren, the trail meets the ocean. Here visitors are welcome to explore the shoreline at their leisure. The return journey follows the same path taken, but be sure to keep a watchful eye, as nothing is ever the same twice.

The Golden Orb Trail is a 1.5 mile in and out trail, beginning and ending in the parking lot.

Activities such as walking, jogging and hiking are permitted. Pets are welcome, but must remain on a leash at all times. Periodically the trail will flood during high tides, so be mindful of when you plan to visit the Golden Orb Trail.