A visit to Oxbow Eco-Center

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

by Cindy Tominiyi

I have been promising myself that I would start my exercise program by walking, and I am glad I chose to start at the Oxbow Eco-Center with my fellow students and professor.  What an amazing day for a hike (la caminata excursión)!   It could not have been more perfect.  The weather was just fabulous, not too hot and not too cold. 

The walk started off a little behind time because there were many more attendees than expected.  However, the staff was very accommodating and excited to see so many people with an interest in the center.   We ended up splitting into two groups.   Oxbow was on my list of things to see, so getting extra credit for Spanish because I attended, and for writing about my experience was just a bonus!

For the most part, Oxbow is in a natural untouched state with just a few exceptions.  Such as, the walking trails that have been carefully carved out, the center itself which houses the office, the exhibit hall and the discovery room, as well as boardwalks and observation areas.   In reading the informational brochure, I found that everything constructed on the site was done so utilizing “Green Technology.”

The group I chose to be a part of went on a little longer hiking trail (el camino de Montaña) than the other group.  Our guide for the hike was Norman and the Spanish highlights were given by Professor Tempone. 

We were first introduced to some native trees (los árboles) such as Pine trees, Sand Live Oak and shrubs (la melaza) such as the saw palmetto (la Palma enana Americana).   Along the walking trail, Norman pointed out that there had been a family of wild pigs (el cerdo salvaje) that had passed through the area recently.   Norman explained that he could tell there had been more than one because of the varying sizes of the hoof marks.  He also explained that he knew it was recent because it had rained the day before and the rain would have erased hoof marks from the prior days.   I never knew we had wild pigs in this area and I would never have noticed the hoof marks if I had been by myself!

Next on the trail was a dock by the Saint Lucie River where we had an opportunity to see a large snake sunning in the trees.   Norman explained that what we were seeing was the North Fork of the Saint Lucie River where, early in the 1900’s, there had been some extensive dredging done to the oxbow.  However, some years later it was discovered that the dredging was not beneficial to the ecosystem and the oxbow was reconnected.  Since then there has been a marked improvement in the number and species of the native fish, animals, plants and trees.

As we were walking along the trail we could hear a particularly loud bird, likely a blue jay according to Norman.  So, for a couple of minutes we all listened to the bird songs (escuchar cantos de pájaros).   We were shown a wild grape vine, a flowering cactus (I don’t remember the name) and bracken fern.  Most of these plants were on sandy ground (la tierra arenosa).  A little further along the trail, the landscape changed to what appeared to be swamp (el pantano) or wetlands (la humedal) because the ground was very dark in color and quite wet.  This area had many large trees above which seemed to keep the direct sunlight out.  Norman told us that the wild pigs love to go into that area and play or forage for food.  We could see evidence that the pigs had been there because of the deep hoof marks and the general condition of the land.  We also got a chance to glance at a gopher tortoise (la Tortuga roedor) in the wetlands before it decided it wanted to go back into its hole.   It seems the tortoise wanted to stay away from the human visitors! 

After we left the wetland area, we then came across a grassy area along a canal.  One of the students, who is employed at the St. Lucie County Park & Recreation Division, explained we could eat the cattails that were growing in the canal if they are still green.  He said that cattails would be prepared just like corn on the cob.  Sounds yummy to me!!!!  He also explained that we could eat the heart of the saw palmetto, the pine nuts from the pine trees, and the blueberries we saw earlier.   In fact, there are many native plants that we could obtain substantial food from in our area.  Although, we were advised nothing can be removed from the trails. 

When we returned from the hike we had an opportunity to go inside the Exhibit Hall where we could see examples of native species of animals, fish and plants.  Although we did not see a lot of the animals or fish on our hike, I am sure they are there just out of sight! 

Our hike through the Oxbow eco-center was very enlightening and inspiring.  I exercised without feeling it and learned a lot about my environment and even some tips for living au-natural.   Who knows, I may even volunteer there myself in the future.   What surprised me most about the Spanish lesson was that there are so many words we utilize today, such as Tortuga, that are actually Spanish based.  It goes to show that most times we never really think about the origins of the words we use.   



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