Western Gateway to the 2,000-Mile Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Nature Trail, Connects 500 Sites throughout Florida

It’s the perfect family getaway for nature and wildlife enthusiasts! Go ahead, take your time, relax and step into the natural scenery of the revitalized Nature Boardwalk, built above the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority’s (ECUA) Bayou Marcus Water Reclamation Facility (BMWRF) Wetlands. This unique experience offers visitors an opportunity to walk through an authentic Northwest Florida wetland ecosystem, which provides spectacular views, and an up-close opportunity to see wildlife that’s indigenous to the area.

Since 1997, the ECUA’s BMWRF has been the recipient of 3 Gold and 9 Silver Awards from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, and spans 1,000 acres of coastal wetlands, near picturesque Perdido Bay, on the Florida-Alabama state line. The award-winning Nature Boardwalk is a section of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Nature Trail, a 2,000-mile self-guided highway track connecting nearly 500 birding sites throughout the state.

The Trail is divided into four sections; the East, West, Panhandle, and South Florida areas, and is a program of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, supported in part by the Florida Department of Transportation and the Wildlife Foundation of Florida. For a list of individual Birding Trail sites, with information and contact phone numbers, go to

Even though the area is located just west of the City of Pensacola, and north of Naval Air Station Pensacola, it seems like a totally remote and different world. There are no high rise buildings or traffic congestion, only nature’s beauty with an abundance of wildlife.

The constant input of fresh, clean water, which is reclaimed water from the BMWRF, averaging approximately 6.2 million gallons per day, keeps the large and diverse bird population, as well as, White Tailed Deer, Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Osceola Turkeys, Gray Foxes, Raccoons, Rabbits, Beavers, Bobcats, Turtles, Otters, Snakes, and even Alligators on and around the site.

The natural shoreline features longleaf pines, wetland grasses, and prairie vegetation, and attracts a wealth of wildlife. The site is home to 17 known endangered, threatened, and “species of special concern,” which are observed for maximum public enjoyment of this serene outdoor space. They are American Alligator, Eastern Indigo snake, Gopher tortoise, brown pelican, Lest tern, Pine woods bluestem, Spoon leaf sundew, Pineland bogbutton, Panhandle lily, Southern twayblade, Naked stem panic grass, Yellow butterwort, Chapman’s butterwort, Southern butterwort, Rose pogonia, White-top pitcher plant, and the Parrot pitcher plant.

The self-guided walk begins about 300 yards from the parking area at the Nature Boardwalk ramp then a mile and a half to the end. It is not a loop, so it’s recommended to only go as far as you are willing to walk back.

The different seasons require a few basic safety rules:

• During the cooler months, warm clothes and a windbreaker jacket will help make the walk comfortable.
• During the warm months, bring cool fluids to drink. The temperature in the Wetlands is typically higher than elsewhere, and the humidity is always close to 100%!
• Wear light-colored, loose fitting clothes, and comfortable walking shoes.
• The wooden deck heats up as the day goes on, so early morning or late afternoon excursions are advised. You may also want to wear a hat to provide shade.
• Children should always be accompanied by an adult guardian.
• And don’t forget the bug spray during the warm months!

Admission to the Nature Boardwalk is free, and it is open year-round for the public to enjoy, but access is allowed only during the daylight hours. ECUA maintains a Nature Boardwalk communications line, which provides updated information. And remember, it’s always best to call the information line first, (850) 458-1658.