Frozen Iguanas? A Familiar, But Frosty, Hike At Dagny Johnson State Park In Key Largo

Frozen Iguanas? A Familiar, But Frosty, Hike At Dagny Johnson State Park In Key Largo

Florida Day six Key Largo sunrise (33 of 45)
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I have been visiting Key Largo for a few years now.  I have hiked in the Dagny Johnson  Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park many times and have come to love this park located on the northern end of the key. . A  failed land development was turned into a State Park. The park contains the largest remaining contiguous tracts of subtropical West Indian hardwood hammock still found in the continental United  States.  I have enjoyed walking it’s trails and seeing the wildlife that lives there.  You can search my many blog posts with the archive search tool on my blog website and learn more about the park, it’s history and some of the critters I have seen over the years. 

So, when I was in Key Largo on my recent visit to South Florida and  the Keys  I planned to  hike there again. This time,  however,  it was different. A cold front brought near record  cold weather to the Keys. The temperature was in the low 40’s when I arrived at Dagny Johnson Park on Sunday morning.  This was the coldest temperature I experienced on any of my visits to Key Largo. I usually  see a lot of birds, lizards and, unfortunately, mosquitoes on my hikes. Not this time.  There were no birds or other critters active as  I walked through the trees in  the native hardwood hammock before sunrise. 

It was cold.  I didn’t see any birds but I did hear a lot of gray catbirds and northern cardinals. They weren’t  moving. They appeared to be staying close to the ground and they were very noisy. I don’t think they liked the cold either. I walked along a canal created for the land development and made it to a lagoon where I watched,

and welcomed he sun rise. 

I finally saw some birds, a few double-crested cormorants also enjoying the  sunrise and 

warming their wings in the rays of the rising sun.

I left the lagoon and walked through a woodland of mostly black  mangrove trees, and some ever present poisonwood trees. 

The black  mangrove are easily identified in  the salt flats by their air-breathing roots. 

As I continued my walk I found this  frozen spider, it did not move when I disturbed it’s web, 

and some wildflowers along the way including  morning glories, 

mock orange flowers, 

and fruit, and

 not sure what these are but my Plant Id app says they are madras thorn pods. 

I continued my hike as the sun rose in the southeastern sky. It was still cold and there was not much wildlife activity. I heard more gray catbirds and northern cardinals but they were not were staying close to the ground. I also heard, and finally saw, a few yellow-rumped warblers.

I came to a trail that continues through some  wetlands, many years it is closed due to flooding. This year it was open.

I was glad. Many red mangroves  trees, identified by their “prop roots, grow along the trail 

and I have seen white ibises, herons, egrets and wood storks on these ponds over the years. 

Not on this hike,  nothing was stirring in the cold. The good thing was there were no mosquitoes. I remember been attacked by swarms of mosquitoes on this trail. Although I didn’t see any wildlife activity,  the footprints in the mud let me know there were still a lot of critters here, but probably huddled up trying to stay warm. 

The trail leaves the wetlands and again enters the hardwood hammock. 

I have seen many species of birds  in  the large trees the section of the trails but, again, there were none on  this cold January morning. I heard some  more gray catbirds and northern  cardinals but they were still staying close to the ground and not flying up into the trees.

I am still trying to learn the many rare and endangered trees that grow in this hardwood hammock of Dagny Johnson State Park. I know a few, including, of course, poisonwood, and these leaves of the wild coffee trees, but so many are still unfamiliar to me. 

As I continued on my hike I saw this iguana  on the trail. At first I assumed it was dead, 

then I remembered reading about how these cold blooded reptiles fall from trees when the temperatures drop. And sure  enough, with some gentile prodding this fellow opened it’s eyes. It looked so helpless. If I had more time I would have waited for it to revive but I had to check out of my hotel and move on the the Everglades.  

So I continued my hike, walking back over to the mangrove salt flats were there was more sun ,hoping to see some more active wildlife. 

The only critter I saw was this red-bellied  woodpecker who didn’t mind the cold. 

I walked through the salt flats and saw a few more wildflowers including some more  morning glories, 

prairie gentians, 

and  gumhead flowers. There  are usually  a lot more of these flowers on these trails when I visit here in March. 

I finished my four mile hike in Dagny Johnson State Park, disappointed that I didn’t see more wildlife, but glad to have enjoyed the beauty and solitude of this  nature sanctuary and having experienced the sight of a frozen reptile. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with more photos from my hike in Dagny Johnson State Park. Florida Day Six  Key Largo morning hike January 15 2023. 

I made it back to my hotel in time to grab a quick breakfast. I was in a hurry to get to the Everglades so I decided to eat at the hotel. It wasn’t the best but it wasn’t too bad.  I   was soon on the road again, hoping I would have more luck with the wildlife in the Everglades. 


There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm. Theodore Roosevelt


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