Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Big Cypress National Preserve : A Tour of the Wildside


Visits to parks like the Big Cypress National Preserve where there's a gator to your left, a gator to your right, an osprey overhead, and a heron right in front of you does a great job to remind me how lucky I am to be able to visit a country with so much biodiversity in addition to parks and preserves that ensure I'm not the last generation that gets to enjoy it.

The preserve is actually more like a swamp that is often called a park. It is a vast area being approximately 720,000 acres in size. The really big virgin cypress trees were cut down several years ago but the preserve maintained its name. The cypress swamp is sort of dry in the dry season and the rest of the year is a swamp.

The preserve also gets rather busy during hunting season. Rifle and bow hunting are allowed at different times of the year so you better check their web page for these seasons.

As a preserve it has done a marvelous job of doing exactly as intended, preserving the natural beauty and habitat of the area it encompasses along with providing various camping, hunting, hiking, fishing, boating and other recreational uses which, though some sound incongruous, work out harmoniously well.

The preserve is loaded with wild alligators, various poisonous snakes, other questionable reptiles and an occasional panther, bear or bobcat. You are in an area where you may well no longer be considered "top dog" on the food chain; so to speak. Indeed, you could well end up being the subject of a reptile attack if not actually a part of their hunted prey.

Big Cypress National Preserve is located in Southwest Florida between the cities of Miami and Naples.  Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley) and U. S. Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail) are the main roads that traverse the site.

I chose not to travel outside of the offices of the preserve and just enjoyed looking at the many displays, including stuffed animals like the panther above, at the Oasis visitor center . Oasis is located about midway on the Trail in Collier County (10 miles west of Fifty-Mile Bend).

The best way to see it is with a canoe, but if you are limited to your feet and an auto, drive the Trail (US 41) the original Miami-Naples road and marvel at the strands here and there along the way. 

Covering all of the areas of Big Cypress National Preserve will take a lifetime, you can travel by foot but its advisable to carry a walking stick and a machete in case a water moccasin pops out on you. Be careful when walking and make good use of your walking stick. The ground in the wet areas (most of this place) can vary from rocky and wet to soft mud. Don't get too confident on the rocky areas as you may step into some boot sucking holes.

Don't go hiking unless alone and you must be wearing hiking boots and long pants. This is not a place for casual walking, as the usually submerged surface is more like a reef than dry land - full of holes, stumps and limestone knobs.

It is not an ideal place to travel if you have a vehicle with a weak battery. Having car trouble may only lead to some wildlife snooping around and checking you out. The roads are hard on a car, so you should have a jeep or a four wheel drive and stay alert for weather conditions.

The Loop Road which is about 22 miles of rugged dirt road that somewhat parallels the Tamiami Trail from Monroe Station in Collier County to the Miccosukee Indian Reservation in Miami-Dade County is a favorite among the visitors of the preserve.The builders of this remote road back in the 1920s fortunately did not bring developers with them thus leaving the area nearly as pristine as they found it.

There are places near the road where you can get some really cool pics of gators or beautiful shots of cypress trees. Though you may have to bring insect repellant as the mosquitoes there are ruthless. Do not eat anything with banana in it prior to or while on trek here. Bananas make your skin exude a scent that attracts mosquitoes.

There is also a very cool primitive camp ground in an area called Bear Island. It is called primitive because there's a portapotty somewhere on the campgrounds and that's it.

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  1. nice place. Funny cause while im commenting on your photo, i am watching this CSI Miami episode where the victim was attacked by the crocodile!! and thats your first photo too :D

    Rovie The Bargain Doll :)

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