Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge


Typical Florida scrub on Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge
Typical Florida scrub on Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge

Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge consists of about 1,194 acres broken into four sections spread between Sebring and Davenport, Florida. The property was the first National Wildlife Refuge to be established specifically for the protection and preservation of threatened and/or endangered vegetative life (23 listed species), although the Refuge also offers safe space for endangered animal species like eastern indigo snakes, Florida scrub jays, sand skinks and Bluetail mole skinks. Lake Wales Ridge NWR is an integral part of a network of scrub and sandhill preserves owned by the Nature Conservancy, Archbold Biological Station, Polk County, Highlands County, two water management districts and the State of Florida. Lake Wales Ridge NWR is not open to the general public.

Within the properties are a good chunk of what remains of endangered Florida scrub habitat. The Carter Creek unit has one of only 12 populations of the extremely rare (and endangered) Florida ziziphus. Flamingo Villas contains the only protected habitat for Garrett's scrub balm, a woody mint that only exists in Highlands County. Scrub lupine, another extremely rare plant, is protected on the Lake McLeod unit.

Map showing locations of the various units of Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge
Map showing the locations of the units of Lake Wales Ridge NWR