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West Lake and Anne Kolb Nature Center

West Lake and Anne Kolb Nature Center
Map showing location of West Lake and Anne Kolb Nature Center.
West Lake Park is a coastal mangrove wetland located on South Florida's East Coast, south of Fort Lauderdale, in Hollywood.

From 1924 to 1926, the original freshwater ecosystem of this area was dredged, filled and divided for development. As part of a wetlands mitigation program the land was purchased, and between 1985 and 1993, a multi-agency effort re-created 203 acres of mangroves, mudflats and tidal pools. Today, West Lake Park is a 1,500-acre restored mangrove preserve that is about 1 mile in width.

Early settlers to South Florida regarded mangrove forests as being useless, mosquito-infested, uninhabitable lands. Today, ecologists realize their important role in coastal ecosystems. Mangrove leaves, trunks and branches fall into the water and are transformed into detritus, which is the basis of an elaborate food chain. Mangroves provide protected habitat, breeding grounds and nursery areas to many terrestrial and marine animals. Mangroves also provide shoreline protection from wind, waves and floods.

Visitors can observe the West Lake Park via electric-powered boats, canoes or interpretive walking trails. An informational nature center with an observation tower is also available. For more information, please visit the West Lake Park and Anne Kolb Nature Center website.

Come climb the nature center's five-story observation tower with us and take a walk along the interpretive nature trails.

A photo gallery is available for this page. [Photos taken April, 2000]

Tower Pictures
photo of Anne Kolb from observation tower
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(Left) Looking down from the Anne Kolb Nature Center's five-story observation tower at a thick canopy of mangroves.

Three species of mangroves are found in Florida: the red mangrove, black mangrove and white mangrove. Typically, red mangroves grow along the water's edge, black mangroves grow on slightly higher elevations than the red mangrove and white mangroves grow upland from the red and black. Mangroves grow in flooded saltwater areas and are salt tolerant.

(Right) Looking down from the Anne Kolb Nature Center's five-story observation tower at an extensive mangrove canopy and West Lake. A power plant can be seen on the horizon.

photo of mangrove canopy
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Nature Trail Pics
photo of fiddler crabs running around in red mangrove roots
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(Left) Fiddler crab burrows abound in and around the intricate red mangrove root system submerged in the muddy tidal flats. Fiddler crabs dig burrows for protection from predators and incoming tidal waters. If you look closely, you can see some fiddlers walking on the mud.

At both low and high tide, fiddler crabs come out of their burrows in search of food. They eat by picking up sediment with their claw and scraping food materials such as decaying plant matter from the sediment. The sediment is then placed back down on the ground.

(Right) A male fiddler crab. Female fiddler crabs have two small claws while males have one small claw and one much larger claw. The male's larger claw is used to attract females and to defend territory. Small claws are used for picking up sediment and eating.

photo of male fiddler crab
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photo of a raccoon tail
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Many terrestrial and marine animals including invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals find food and shelter within Florida's mangrove forests. Look among the trunks (photo, left) and branches of these mangroves in West Lake Park to spot the brownish-black rings of a raccoon's tail.
(Right) Sunrays break through the thick canopy of mangroves and illuminate this raccoon foraging in the tidal flats of West Lake Park.

Raccoons are mammals that are mostly nocturnal. They are common in wetland areas throughout most of the United States. Raccoons may eat a variety of foods including fruits, insects, frogs, fish, small mammals and birds.

photo of a raccoon[larger image]

Red Mangroves and Prop Roots
photo of a red mangrove
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photo of tiny mangroves
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photo of many red mangroves
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photo of red mangrove leaves
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(top) A red mangrove and its intricate aerial root system in west lake waters. Red mangroves grow arching and branching prop roots from trunks and drop roots from branches to anchor into the muddy bottom. Some scientists believe that the exposed roots allow the trees to take in oxygen. Red mangroves are commonly referred to as "walking trees" because their prop roots make the mangrove look as though it is walking or standing on the water's surface.

(Top Middle) Young red mangrove trees grow among the prop roots of mature red mangroves. These young trees have grown from floating pencil-like propagules, which germinate while attached to the mature mangrove and later fall from the plant to float in the water until they take root.

(Bottom Middle) A tangle of red mangroves and their roots at low tide. Mangroves trap mud, leaves and other debris among their roots and trunks. This mixture becomes food for many animals including microscopic organisms, young fish and shrimp.

(Bottom) Leaf detail of red mangrove. Red mangrove leaves are shiny, deep green above and paler below. Their leaves are somewhat shinier and larger than other mangrove trees.

Mangrove Crabs
A mangrove crab camouflaged on the trunk of a mangrove tree. Look closely to see the sharp tips on its legs, which allow it to climb and live among the mangrove trunks and roots.

Although mangroves can be naturally damaged and destroyed, human impact has been the greatest. Earlier development along the coasts greatly reduced mangrove acreage, and because of the mangrove crab's close association with mangroves, mangrove crab habitat as well.

Today, Florida has state and local regulations that protect mangrove forests.

photo of mangrove crabs on a mangrove tree
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photo of mangroves at low tide
Low tide in the mangrove forest of West Lake Park.
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photo of mangroves with low tide

Mangroves bordering the West Lake mud flats exposed by low tide.
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Black Mangroves
photo of black mangroves
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A group of black mangroves. Black mangroves can be identified by their numerous finger-like root projections (pneumatophores), which protrude from the ground around the tree's trunk. Black mangroves typically grow on slightly higher elevations than the red mangrove.

Related SOFIA Information

Below we have listed science projects and publications for studies that are being conducted, or have been conducted, in the area of the West Lake and Anne Kolb Nature Center. Follow these links to read about each project and to see project-related publications and data.

Science Projects:

Related Publications:



U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Center for Coastal Geology
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Last updated: May 06, 2014 @ 12:06 PM (HSH)