location: Everglades Area.
What is it supposed to be on the show?
A. A wilderness
area with an Everglades feel to it.
Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?
A. In Florida.
Q. When did we see it on the show?
A. In Episode 3 (of Season 1), "Popping Cherry".
Dexter has been keeping an eye on a young killer named Jeremy. He watched him being released from a youth facility. Then, to make sure he hadn't changed his ways, he followed him to an outdoor swap meet, where he watched him buy a large hunting knife.
In this scene, Dexter has followed Jeremy to the outskirts of an Everglades-like wilderness area. Dexter watches from afar as Jeremy and another teenage boy ignore "No Trespassing Signs" and climb over a fence into the preserve. Through binoculars, Dexter sees the hunting knife in Jeremy's back pocket.
It becomes clear to Dexter that Jeremy has brought the boy here to kill him.
So, Dexter follows them through the forest, as Jeremy leads his young victim deeper into the tropical overgrowth of the marsh, away from any possible witnesses.
As they walk, Jeremy promises the boy that he can see an alligator in the marsh. Sensing something isn't right, the boy is reluctant to continue, but Jeremy taunts him on by questioning his courage.
As Jeremy reaches for his knife, Dexter abruptly walks into the clearing, and both teenagers flee.
As Dexter turns to leave, he is shocked when he suddenly encounters an actual alligator, which springs from the bushes, wide-jawed. Dexter falls back and winds up in the mud, cursing himself as he stumbles away.
Back at his car, Dexter finds that Jeremy has broken his car window and stolen his wallet.
Dexter later goes to kill Jeremy (at a halfway house), but when he learns that the man Jeremy originally killed had raped him, he decides that the killing was justified (by Harry's code), and lets him go (with a warning not to kill those who don't deserve it).
( Dexter meets Jeremy again later in Season One, in Episode 5, "Circle of Friends". Learning that Jeremy has ignored his warning and killed another innocent boy, Dexter stalks him on the jogging paths of a public park. )
Q. What is it actually in real life?
A. A nature center & pond at a public park - but nowhere near the Everglades.
Q. Where can I find it in real life?
A. This scene was shot at the El Dorado Nature Center, (at El Dorado Regional Park), a 100-acre preserve located at 7550 E. Spring Street, in Long Beach, CA.
El Dorado is a huge park (800 acres and several lakes), so to be more specific, you will find the Nature Center on the south side of Spring Street, between the 605 Freeway (on the east) and the San Gabriel River (on the west).
The guard booth will charge you $5.00 to enter the park. Just inside the gate, you'll find a small parking lot. After you park, the entrance to the nature center is just to the west. You'll first walk across a bridge and through a park office & nature museum which sits in the middle of the large pond (or small lake).
After you exit this office to the west, you'll be in the forest area. For a small center in the middle of civilization, it has a convincing wilderness feel to it, with densely grown trees and bushes surrounding the round, tranquil pond (which is actually more like a large lake). It's here, in this semi-tropical garden area that they filmed the Everglades scenes (with the help of a few additional palms and hanging vines, not to mention a little "fog" - all added by the prop department).
You'll find some turtles sunning themselves on rocks in the pond, as well as a variety of birds, squirrels, and perhaps an occasional racoon, but don't worry - there are no alligators.
There are several trails available, some longer than others. The most interesting scenery (and the most tropical) is around the first pond, and on the banks of the stream that runs through the center, especially to the west. The land farther to the south gets a bit barren & plain by comparison.
In the scene, as the alligator suddenly attacks, and Dexter tumbles into the mud, you can catch a glimpse of (what appears to be) the round pond in the background, as he pulls himself up from the ground and stumbles away.
I can't pinpoint
the exact spot in the Nature Center where they filmed the scenes. The
place is simply too large, with too many winding trails (all of which look
somewhat alike), and chances are that they padded the scenery with extra
foliage to make it look more tropical.
And here is a .PDF map of the trails at the Nature Center.
( Another scene
from the same episode was shot nearby. The hunting
scene, where Harry (Dexter's foster father) allows Dexter to kill a
deer, was also filmed at the Nature Center. )
Update: In a bizarre case of life imitating art, in May 2010, Long Beach police found the dismembered body parts of a man scattered about this Nature Center, including the victim's arm, hand and head. The killer had murdered the victim for his ATM card, then murdered the man's female tutor and attempted to make it look like the victim had killed her and had then fled the scene. Unlike Dexter, this killer opted to dispose of the remains in this forested part of the park, rather than out at sea. It should be noted that the murder didn't take place at the park - the killer just hid the body parts here. (You can read the news story here.)
I shot the photos below in late 2008, at the El Dorado Nature Center:
Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?
A. This one had me baffled for quite a while. This early in the first season, they were still shooting a lot of their scenes in Florida, so I had no way of knowing whether they filmed it in L.A. or at some actual Everglades area in Florida.
In 2008, I found out that the "Flamingo Park" scene (with Jeremy) was filmed at El Dorado Park, an area I hadn't considered before. Since I knew that the "Dexter" crew tends to film more than one scene at interesting locations, I thought I'd take a second look at a few other scenes that might have been filmed at the park. And since the character of 'Jeremy' appeared in both scenes, it was the first one I considered.
The forest was too dense to have been a part of the regular El Dorado Park (where they filmed the jogging scenes), which is a fairly typical modern park, made up mostly of grass lawns and lakes.
But I had previously
visited the El Dorado Nature Center (a forested nature preserve to the
southeast of the Flamingo Park lake), and had hiked around there on several
occasions. I knew it contained dense growth and a sizeable pond.
Also, in the hunting scene, if you look closely, you'll see young Canary
Pine trees, something you rarely see in Florida, but which are in abundance
at El Dorado park. So I visited the Nature Center once again to shoot the
Dexter screenshots from the show and all related characters & elements
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