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a man standing next to a river

The new Lost River Outdoor Center in Stuart’s Halpatiokee Regional Park is the latest gateway to natural Florida

Rick Clegg fell in love with nature exploring a brook behind his childhood home in Connecticut. “It was my refuge,” he says. “I became fascinated with the flow of the water, the sound of it over the rocks, and the lizards in it. It was a romance over the years. I revere nature, and I want to respect and honor it.”

Clegg turned that fascination into his life’s work, and recently the 66-year-old outdoorsman opened a new spot for locals to bask in the wonder of nature: Lost River Outdoor Center
in Stuart’s Halpatiokee Regional Park. Already the owner of Jupiter Outdoor Center in Riverbend Park and Love Street Outdoor Center, he submitted a plan to Martin County Parks and Recreation so he could expand his footprint up the Treasure Coast. The grand opening is planned for November 1 with special celebratory events on-site through November 5.

“I’ve always loved Martin County, and to now be a stakeholder in it is so exciting for me,” says Clegg of having a presence up north. “This provides people with a whole new venue of opportunity to connect with nature, which is really the vision of our business.”

Clegg first visited the area in 1976 when he was a student at the University of Miami. He took a motorcycle ride up to Jupiter to visit family and paddled the Loxahatchee, falling in love with the natural beauty of the area. He decided to open a real estate company in town in 1982, but he soon became bored with office-job life. He promised himself that by age 40, he would find his passion—and follow it.

a man with a bicycle in front of a house

Rick Clegg at the Lost River Outdoor Center in Stuart. Photo by Jason Nuttle

It was on a fortieth birthday trip that he found that passion. He was on the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains when he came upon an outdoor center—and decided that was what he would do with his life. In 1997, he bought .67 acres of waterfront property at Jupiter Inlet Village and opened the Jupiter Outdoor Center six months later, an ecotourism business that offers activities like kayaking and guided tours. He also entered the restaurant scene, opening the on-site Kayak Café, and in 2004, he opened one of Jupiter’s most beloved spots—Guanabanas. He ended up selling Guanas 10 years later, but now he hopes to open a similar establishment at Lost River.

Jupiter Outdoor Center moved to Riverbend Park in 2019, and Clegg operates another outdoor center in Jupiter at Love Street. He also runs a “glamping” retreat called Headwaters Hideaway, across from Riverbend near the Loxahatchee River, which he built from upcycled storage containers.

All of Clegg’s business ventures have been designed to help people appreciate the area’s natural environment. And now he is spreading the love to Martin County with the Lost River Outdoor Center. At the 3.5-acre property, visitors can rent canoes, kayaks, mountain bikes, and e-bikes to explore on their own; sign up for a guided tour of the trails and the Lost River (the southernmost tributary of the St. Lucie River); or attend a fishing demonstration. Visitors may encounter otters, manatees, bobcats, coyotes, Florida panthers, alligators, and various species of fish and birds along the way. A 16,000-square-foot retail store sells various sporting and outdoor equipment, as well as grab-and-go food and beverages and ice.

Future plans for the site include introducing a captain-led, narrated sightseeing cruise to educate passengers about the wildlife, vegetation, and history of the Lost River and launching a day camp for kids during the summer.

Lost River Outdoor Center offers memberships and punch passes for frequent visitors; both Martin County and St. Lucie County residents qualify for discounts.

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