A Day Trip Escape Into Old Florida
By: Nancy Dale
Only 30 minutes west of Hobe Sound, there is a place of serenity where time stands still, where the visitor can return to silence beneath ancient bald cypress trees in the heart of the Barley Barber swamp at Indiantown. The Treasured Land Foundation, a non-profit organization in Martin County, in partnership with neighboring Florida Power and Light, has restored four hundred acres of pristine wilderness for visitors to escape into an ecological habitat teaming with native species.
“The Mission of the Treasured Land Foundation along with FPL is a voluntary stewardship project to protect Barley Barber Swamp, maintaining an environment where nature and energy production co-exist. The Treasured Land Foundation is focused on drawing community support for public/private land partnerships to preserve these pristine areas in Martin County,” comments Chuck Barrowclough, Executive Director.
Accompanied by experienced Florida Master Naturalists, visitors board a tram to enjoy the twelve mile journey to the swamp boardwalk with a video story of its restoration. A leisure one quarter mile walk deep into the heart of the natural habitat captures the pristine beauty of old Florida.
There is much folk lore about the history of the swamp and the loner, Barley Barber, who homesteaded the land in the 1900s, hunting and trading with local Seminoles and working for lumber, citrus and cattle ranchers clearing land. In later years, the swamp reverted to the State as a hunting preserve until 1972, when FPL, recognizing the ecological value of the land near their Indiantown plant, bought twelve thousand acres with the 400 acres set aside as a nature preserve, with the namesake of “Barley Barber.”
After 911, due to potential terrorist threats on power plants across the United States, the park was forced to close. In 2010, FPL restored the swamp and boardwalk through a partnership with Treasured Lands Foundation, opening again to the public. Today, the reserve protects hundreds of native habitat, rare flora and fauna. Together, FPL and Treasured Lands are committed to maintaining an environment where nature and energy production coexist in harmony and where the natural splendors are available for the public to enjoy for generations to come. Today, the area remains one of the oldest growth cypress communities in the country with one tree estimated to be more than 1,000 years old.
Along the boardwalk, photographers have the opportunity to capture a picture of endangered birds, a bobcat, river otter even a Florida panther. The canopy of surrounding fauna shades the walkway with tall oaks draped in moss, cabbage palms and wax myrtle while below in the slowing moving water are blue flag iris, white water lilies and the stealthy alligator.
Those who join the tour are asked to protect the swamp from human “footprints,” thus, visitors are asked to enjoy a meal either before or after the tour as food and smoking are not allowed along the walk. Water is provided in recyclable bottles. To preserve the area for future generations, visitors are asked to avoid collecting any living souvenirs.
Visitors should dress comfortably for the swamp experience, long pants/shirt and comfortable shoes. Florida has another prolific inhabitant, the pesky mosquito and biting insects; be prepared to enjoy the beautiful scenery with insect repellent. Due to the isolation of the swamp, visitors are asked to consider possible physical limitations due to the length of the walk and medical conditions before signing up for the tour.
The Treasured Land Foundation continues its efforts to expand the partnerships for preservation of more areas in the county and state. Treasured Lands Foundation is continually seeking the assistance of volunteers to help protect. If you are interested in being part of Barley Barber, please visit the Treasured lands web site at www.treasuredlands.org
Directions to the Seminole Inn: 30 miles northwest of West Palm Beach, FL, 30 miles southeast of Okeechobee on State Road 710 (also known as the Beeline Highway and Warfield Blvd.) and 20 miles west of Stuart off State Rd. 76 heading towards Okeechobee.
Tours are offered Friday’s at 9:00 and Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 and 1:30. Group Tours or Private Tours may be scheduled Monday – Thursday by calling the Office 772.647.9076.
To support the preservation of this natural wonder there is a recommended donation of $10.00/person (18 year of age and older).