Exploring Big Cypress National Preserve, part 2

If you missed part 1, you can find it here. Big Cypress encompasses several different environments, and they each require a specific mode of transportation. Many places are accessible with your own vehicle, despite any warning signs you might see…

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Many of the roads are hard packed sand and are easy to navigate…

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They offer a stunning array of scenery and wildlife opportunities…

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Other areas can only be reached via hiking trails. We started out on the Gator Hook Trail. At the start, it looked something like this…

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With scenery like this…

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Then it became a bit muddier…

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As you can see, Steve is having second thoughts about this hike. And with good reason, the rest of the trail looked like this…

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We hadn’t really planned for a wet hike, so we decided to head back and check out some of the other trails. One of the neat things about Big Cypress is they have several boardwalk hikes. Most are less than a mile and are wheelchair accessible. You can see almost all of the same scenery, but with dry feet.

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What do you think of this in black and white?

The boardwalk at the Kirby Storter Roadside Park has a chickee near the beginning of the trail…

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As the boardwalk meanders through the forest/swamp, you can’t help but notice the changes in the landscape. Cypress knees begin cluttering the forest floor…

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Most of the cypress trees were logged out during the late 1800’s. But every now and then, you can find one that has been around a while. I have no idea how old this tree is, but the plastic water bottle near the base of it gives something for scale. (There was actually very little litter in the preserve)

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The boardwalk ends at a large viewing platform with several benches…

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While Steve was talking with another visitor, I watched the anhinga looking for its lunch…

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Another day, Steve and I hiked out to Deep Lake. Since we were there during the dry season, the path was pretty easy to walk. There were a few places where getting wet was the only option. At least we were prepared this time…

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Deep Lake is a naturally occurring sinkhole lake and is over 90 feet deep.

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How many alligators do you see? Hint, there are more than 5

One of the benefits of hiking versus driving, is you can just stop and check things out. You will see things you would have otherwise missed. Like the neat pattern the fungus made on this tree…

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Or the blooms of the bromeliads…

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Or the lizards,

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A strangle fig with its victim,

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A squirrel hiding in a tree,

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Or a liguus tree snail…

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For me, kayaking is probably the next “slowest” way to take in the sights.

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I imagine during the wet season, all of this is underwater.

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Other ways to get into the “back country” are airboats…

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And my personal favorite – swamp buggies…

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There are lots of places you can take airboat or swamp buggy eco tours, but we opted not to on this trip. Maybe next time!

Until then…

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We say “Thanks for coming along!” and we always love reading your comments!

Exploring Big Cypress National Preserve, part 1

Everyone has heard of “The Everglades National Park”. But did you know there is another , equally beautiful, tract of land just east of the Everglades called Big Cypress National Preserve? What’s the difference between a national park and a national preserve? Land use is restricted more tightly in a national park, for example you can not legally hunt in most national parks, but you can in national preserves. Big Cypress was the first national preserve, established Oct. 11, 1974.

The concept of a Preserve was born from an exercise in compromise. Everyone saw the importance of protecting the swamp, but many did not want this region merely added to nearby Everglades National Park that was created in the 1940s. Many felt that national parks were managed in a restrictive manner and access to the swamp would be lost. The resulting compromise created a new land management concept – a national preserve. An area that would be protected, but would also allow for specific activities that were described by Congress within the legislation that created the Preserve.”

Steve and I recently spent 10 days exploring Big Cypress. We stayed at Burn Lake Campground which was a perfect jumping off spot for our day trips. There are no services at Burns Lake (electric, water or sewer), perhaps that is why it was so much less crowded than some of the other campgrounds. With only 10 RV sites (sites 1 & 2 are reserved for camp hosts) and 6 tent sites crowding is seldom an issue. Several nights during our stay, we were the only RV in the campground other than the camp hosts.

No matter where you travel within the park, you are guaranteed to see 2 things – alligators and birds!

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Frequently near each other. These wood storks aren’t paying any mind to the alligator on the shore. I don’t know how often a bird becomes a snack but…

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This vulture was more than happy to feast on these alligator remains, while the rest of the flock waited their turn…

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While many of the birds are out in the open and easily seen…

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Others challenge you to find them…

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Some birds strike regal poses for you…

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While others appear to be having a “bad feather” day…

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And speaking of feathers, I loved the way this one was drifting along in the current…

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Some of the other birds we saw…

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But, the most exciting bird encounter we had was at nearby 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Steve and I had been there several days earlier, but wanted to go back for a sunrise view from the observation platform. While the sunrise was beautiful, I didn’t really get any images I thought were spectacular. Not wanting to waste our visit, we walked along the refuge’s Marsh Trail. We stopped for a time to enjoy the peaceful surroundings…

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When to our amazement, an osprey decided to search for breakfast right next to us! The scene went something like this. The osprey flies in, literally, not more than 20 feet over my head…

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Sees something good to eat and prepares to dive…

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Gaining speed…

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I lost sight of him in the brush, but I heard the splash.ย  Then he re-emerges and flies off with breakfast…

Osprey Hunt-5130Steve and I were stunned to witness this so closely! On our way back to the Jeep, we stopped at the observation platform and I think this picture is perfect. To me it shows what a wide variety of people enjoy the refuge…

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Ok, so about those alligators. There are signs everywhere, warning people not to feed or harass the alligators. In the visitor’s center, they tell you to stay at least 10 feet away from them. That’s it? 10 feet? Hmmm, okay. My picture…

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Sorry, wrong one. My picture…

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And my proof I was 10 feet away…

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We happened upon lots of gators soaking up the sun…

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One of the hardest animals to get any photographs of were the turtles. Yep, the turtles! Nearly every time I would see one, Steve would stop the Jeep and they would disappear into the water. I did manage to get a few images…

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If you are lucky, you might get a chance to see some of the other animals in the preserve. While we did not see any bears or panthers, we did see a few deer off in the distance…

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What else is there to see and do? Stay tuned for Part 2!

Thanks for coming along!