The Deering Estate sits atop the geological formation known as the Miami Rock Ridge, most prominent and visible in southern Miami-Dade County. The sedimentary ridge was formed more than 120,000 years ago, has elevations up to 25 feet above sea level, and serves as a topographical barrier between Biscayne Bay and the interior basin of the southern Florida peninsula. At the Deering Estate, visitors have a rare opportunity for up-close experiences with its “karst” features, which include solution holes, sink holes, razor rock, and caves – all created by historical movement of freshwater through limestone.
Important Birding Area (IBA)
Ongoing surveys of birds at the Deering Estate have recorded over 170 resident and migratory species, including sightings of rare species such as Mangrove Cuckoo, White crowned pigeon, Black-whiskered Vireo, and Limpkin which occur often enough to excite even the most experienced bird watcher.
The Deering Estate is part of the Biscayne Bay IBA (Important Bird Area) and Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, a 2,000-mile, self-guided trail traversing 500 sites located throughout Florida and selected for their excellent bird watching, wildlife viewing and educational opportunities.
Guided Bird Walks are offered one Saturday a month October-May.
The pine rockland habitat at the Deering Estate is the largest parcel of this ecosystem that remains on the coast of Biscayne Bay. There are around 107 acres of pine rockland, primarily located next to Deering Point and along SW 152 Street. It consists of moderately dense stands of South Florida slash pine.) replanted post Hurricane Andrew with an understory mosaic of saw palmetto and cabbage palm. The importance of this ecosystem is quite significant as less than 2% of it remains outside of Everglades National Park. At the estate you may notice this habitat to be very dry and rocky, this is due to the elevation as it is on the Miami Rock Ridge. The Miami Rock Ridge is an important geologic formation made up of oolitic (calcified pre-historic sea life) limestone. Pine rocklands are fire-dependent ecosystems, relying on regular burns to clear out types of trees which would otherwise create too much shade and limit the growth of sun loving pines and palms. Due to the unique substrate (soil) and environmental conditions, the pine rocklands has a high level of endemism (species are adapted to reside only in a particular place). Many locally and federally endangered species call this habitat home, including deltoid spurge, Small’s milkwort, Garber’s spurge, and Carter’s ground orchid.
Tropical Hardwood Hammock
Tropical hardwood hammocks are one of many natural communities found in Florida, but one of the few that are characterized by tropical plants. The word “hammock” was first used by early inhabitants to mean a cool and shady place. Later, settlers of Florida used the word “hummock” to indicate areas that were slightly higher in elevation from the rest of the land. Today, the term hammock is used in Florida to describe forest habitats that are typically higher in elevation than surrounding area. Many of the trees and plants found in these habitats originated in the Caribbean Islands and are not found farther north. As a result, tropical hammocks represent one of the rarest plant communities in Florida. These forests have a high species diversity and are dominated by hardwood trees that are 60 feet or taller. Both human and natural impacts have caused serious declines in these habitats, and 15,000 scattered acres of tropical forest that are mainly located in parks and preserves in South Florida and the Keys are currently listed as a threatened habitat type. At the Deering Estate this is the largest ecosystem we have with 111 acres with some of the most interesting finds on the property. It has been well documented that Native Americans, particularly the Tequesta resided in the hammock.
Guided Nature Preserve Tours to the Tropical Hardwood Hammock are held daily (October through May) at 12:30PM.
The island of Chicken Key, located approximately one mile offshore, was formed by the deposition of quartz and limestone sands by ocean currents. An 1899 survey by S. H. Richmond recorded a maximum elevation of three feet above sea level and historically, the island was characterized by a sand beach and low dunes. Dredge deposits in the 1940s increased elevations from 3 to 10 feet on most of the island, destroying the dunes. In 1996-1997, the County restored Chicken Key, removing dredged materials, connecting the mangrove forest and dune system, and re-creating the island’s original topography. Today the island is dominated by mangrove forest with the establishment of some coastal salt marsh and hardwood species such as sea grape, bay cedar, and camphor. Our conservation program in conjunction with the Natural Areas Management Team and the Environmentally Endangered Lands program are actively monitoring for pests and outplanting endangered plant species. One of high importance is torchwood which is known to be the host plant for the rare and elusive Shaus’ swallowtail butterfly.
Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve
The waters behind and adjacent to the Deering Estate are home to two state aquatic preserves, part of a system of 41 aquatic preserves around the state managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas. The Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve provides habitat for a wide variety of juvenile and adult marine species including several of Florida’s imperiled species, such as the west Indian manatee, the smalltooth sawfish, the American crocodile, and Johnson’s seagrass. Other vital resources of the Preserve include corals, sponges and algae, mangrove-lined shores, and a variety of invertebrate species throughout the length of the bay. Seagrass beds within the BBAP, especially along the shores of the Deering Estate, are prime feeding areas for wading birds and a valuable nursery area for juvenile fish and invertebrates, including many of commercial interest.
The Cutler Slough Rehydration Project improves salinity levels in these nearshore environments, supporting the Preserve’s nursery habitat for fish and invertebrate. Unfortunately in the last ten years the Bay has been showing signs of distress including seagrass die offs, reduced species diversity and documented plumes of construction debris and sediments released into the water. This came to a head in August of 2020 when the public noticed mass fish kills throughout public areas of the bay. As a result Miami-Dade County alongside other partners including South Florida Water Management District, and Florida International University have created the Biscayne Bay Task Force to take measures to monitor and properly manage pollution and activities in the bay. We hope that with increased regulation and enforcement our backyard paradise will be restored.
Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands
Historically there was a seasonal freshwater transverse glade wetland known as the Cutler Slough that flowed through the Deering Estate and into Biscayne Bay. With the development and channelization of South Florida this wetland ceased to receive the sheet flow of water it used to have and instead it became a concentrated stream now known as Cutler Creek. The alteration of the natural flow has caused issues such as the disappearance of key wetland species from the property and the conversion from wetland habitat to hardwood hammock. Beginning in the 2000s The Deering Flow-way was proposed and passed as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan/Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project. It is a site specific reconciliation ecology effort to help restore seasonal water flow into the historic slough. This scale model of Everglades restoration redistributes water from the South Florida Water Management flood protection canals via a spur canal and a pumping station. You can visit the pump station known as the Powers Property on Old Cutler and SW 74th Ave. through a walking gate.
Environmental Endangered Land
The Deering Estate has some of the highest quality and most diverse natural resources remaining in Miami-Dade County. The Estate is one of the few remaining Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) in Miami-Dade County. As such it serves as an outdoor classroom and laboratory for students and scientists. The Estate contains globally-imperiled pine-rockland, state-imperiled tropical hardwood hammock, a remnant transverse glade, various ecotones, freshwater upwellings, salt marsh, mangrove forest, sea grass beds, and barrier island habitat.
North Addition – Environmental Endangered Land
Free public access is offered daily from two entry points to this Environmentally Endangered Land – along SW 152 Street and via a footpath along in 67 Ct in the Royal Palm community.The 45-acre Deering Estate North Addition is favorite viewing spot which features an actively used fishing point overlooking Biscayne Bay and the historic bridge pilings from Fuzzard’s Dock, both of which are frequented by the American crocodile, cormorants, sandpipers, and other shorebirds.
Deering Point (17350 Old Cutler Road Miami, FL 33157) is located adjacent to the C-100 Canal at the southern point of the Deering Estate property – approximately six blocks from the Deering Estate’s Main Entrance.
The site known as “Deering Point” is a small (3 ½ acres) portion of the Deering South Addition, located adjacent to the C-100 Canal at the southern point of the Deering Estate property.Deering Point is the only location within 13 miles of downtown Miami that offers free public access to Biscayne Bay for canoeing, kayaking, wildlife viewing and fishing. Free public parking, restrooms, and shade pavilions are also available on a first come, first served basis.
The Deering Estate Foundation, Inc. is a community-based charitable 501(c) 3 Florida Corporation dedicated to preserving and enhancing the Deering Estate, one of South Florida’s largest and most significant historical, archeological, architectural and environmental treasures.