Florida is more than the Everglades, try exploring Big Cypress National Preserve instead



The Cypress National Reserve is full of humid cypress forests, presenting a dizzying array of flora and fauna.

Florida is famous for its Everglades National Park, but the Everglades isn’t the state’s only gorgeous wetland. Located 45 miles south of Miami is the Big Cypress National Preserve. Big Cypress has a diverse landscape where you can see cypress trees and mangroves and spot endangered alligators and panthers in just one day.

The reserve is dominated by a humid cypress forest and has dizzying flora and fauna. These include orchids, alligators, river otters, bobcats, black bears, cougars, eastern diamond rattlesnakes, and others. See here to hike the Anhinga Trail in the Everglades – where alligators are sure to be seen.

About Big Cypress National Preserve

Big Cypress borders the Everglades’ freshwater marl grasslands and is slightly higher than the Western Everglades. In the past, alligators and crocodiles were hunted to extinction, and the timber industry destroyed most of the ancient trees in the ecosystem. Today it is open to the public and is one of the best ecosystems to visit in Florida.

One of the differences between Big Cypress and the Everglades is that by law the Miccosukee, Seminole, and traditional peoples have the permanent right to occupy the land and use the land in traditional ways. They also have the first rights to develop inbound production activities here (like working as tour guides).

Alligators in the reserve

American alligators can be expected to lazily wait for their next meal as we see them regularly, the Florida panther, on the other hand, is endangered and more difficult to spot.

  • Cut: Male alligators can grow up to 15 feet long, female alligators can grow to 9.8 feet

American alligators were widely hunted and poached in the early 20th century. Today their numbers have rebounded and they have been removed from the endangered species list (although they are still listed as threatened). See here for 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Alligators In Florida.

Related: The 10 Most Photogenic Swamps In The United States

Big Cypress National Preserve Tour

  • Admission fee: $ 0.00 Admission is free – No entry fees
  • Visits by forest guards: During the dry winter months, rangers often lead swamp trips (as well as canoe trips and boardwalk talks)

There are two reception centers:

Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center: This visitor center is designed with energy saving in mind and offers indoor and outdoor exhibitions.

  • Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Opening days : 7 days a week

Oasis Visitor Center: Oddly enough, this visitor center was once a gas station / convenience store. Converted by the National Park Service into a visitor center, it also features a number of natural and cultural history exhibits. There is also a 28 minute orientation film to watch and familiarize yourself with the reserve.

  • Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Opening days : From Friday to Monday (Closed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday)
  • Cut: 729,000 acres

Camping in the reserve

There are a number of campgrounds on the reserve and there is a fee to stay. Reservations can be made for most campgrounds at www.recreation.gov. First come, first served campgrounds where no reservations are possible are Pink Jeep, Mitchell Landing, Gator Head and Bear Island Campgrounds. The reserve is also open to wild camping.

  • Advice: Always leave animals alone, if they become too familiar with people the NPS may have to shoot them
  • Hiking and camping in the backcountry: Requires permits but are also free

Related: The Great Dreadful Swamp Explained: Why You Should Visit This Unique Natural Landmark

Kayaking and canoeing

It is a wetland and therefore, of course, one of the best activities is kayaking and canoeing. It is one of the best ways to explore this rich ecosystem.

  • “Paddle season”: When water levels drop from November to March (this is also when the temperature is cooler and the insects are tolerable)
  • Open all year : Although it is best to paddle during the “paddling season”, one can paddle all year round.
  • Rentals: A list of boat rental companies can be found here

There are five paddling trails (four of which are listed below), for more information and to find out which ones are open, check out the National Park Service webpage.

Turner River Paddling Trail

  • Distance: 9.93 miles
  • Paddle time: 4 ½ to 7 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • See: Cypress Strand, Sawgrass Prairie, Intertidal Mangroves

Halfway Creek and Halfway Creek Loop paddling trails

  • Distance: 7.28 miles
  • Paddle time: 4 to 5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Take-out point (s): NPS Gulf District Ranger Station or Chokoloskee Island
  • See: Sawgrass Prairie, coastal mangrove forests
  • To note: This trail may not be fully passable, contact the Visitor Center

Turner River Paddle Trail on the left

  • Distance: 3.65 miles
  • Paddle time: 3 to 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • See: Intertidal mangrove forest
  • To note: This trail may not be fully passable, contact the Visitor Center

Sandfly Island Loop Paddling Trail

  • Distance: 3.73 miles
  • Paddle time: 3 to 5 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • See: Inter-coastal mangrove islands, oyster beds, brackish marine environment, v Open Bay

Next: Should You Take an Everglades Airboat Tour? This is what you can expect

the walk of the sky of kinzau in the forest of allegheny in the autumn

This Allegheny Forest day trip is best for leaf viewing and panoramic mountain views

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