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The northern portion of Alys Beach is devoted to a 20-acre nature preserve that provides a quiet and reflective getaway. An 1800-foot-long trail winds its way through the preserve, most of it on an elevated wooden boardwalk that gives a great view of the varied habitats below.
The trail begins in a dense forest of slash pine and cypress trees along an intermittent stream that flows east to Lake Powell, a rare coastal dune lake. Farther along, the tree canopy gives way to the sky, with plenty of sunlight that nurtures a more open meadow landscape of wiregrass and colorful wildflowers. Be sure to look for the carnivorous pitcher plants—their tubelike leaf structure captures and digests insects, giving the plants added nitrogen in this nutrient-poor environment.
The boardwalk itself is a masterful creation, and due to the sensitive location, it was constructed from above, without placing any heavy equipment on the ground. Interpretive signs help guide visitors and tell the story of the natural and human history of the area, and wider “bumpouts” along the trail allow visitors plenty of space to pause and consider the ways of the resident flora and fauna. The nature trail and preserve are a perfect complement to the more active areas of town, offering a shady retreat where nature rules.