Everglades National Park Off The Beaten Path Tips by KimberlyAnn Top 5 Page for this destination
Everglades National Park Off The Beaten Path: 17 reviews and 19 photos
We spent three days in Big Cypress with our camper. On the first day we drove along US highway 41, stopped at the visitor center, then at Clyde Butcher’s Photography Studio. He is sometimes called the Ansal Adams of Florida. His black and white photographs of south Florida were beautiful. Stop by Big Cypress Gallery to enjoy his photography, or to purchase photographs, books, note cards, posters, videos, t-shirts, and calendars desplaying his outstanding photos. Butcher states, I want people to see that we are part of nature. That without nature, we can't exist. And that it's beautiful. Unlike the typical photos of alligators, birds, and sunbathers on beaches, Butcher captures the sole and natural beauty of the state. The website listed below is for Clyde Butcher.
We took the scenic drive loop, which includes US 41 and highway 94. Much of 94 is unpaved and passes through swamplands. We walked the short Hammock Nature Trail, and walked another narrow trail through the jungle like vegetation. We also pulled off the road in various places to look into the swamp. We saw beautiful air plants dressed with their pretty red flowers, fish, and many alligators. We were also lucky to spot an otter as he crossed the road.
On another day we explored the unpaved scenic road 839, Birdon Road 841, and 837, which come off of US 41. We saw large turtles, raptors, anhinga, cormorants, snowy egrets, great egrets, little blue herons, great blue herons, tri-colored herons, wood storks, ibis, gallinules, and turkey vultures, plus lots of alligators. A few of the gaters were HUGE! Much bigger than any we had seen in Everglades National Park. We also saw more beautiful air plants in bloom, as well as white swamp lilies.
Big Cypress National Preserve
Big Cypress borders the western edge of Everglades National Park, and encompasses 2,400 square miles of south Florida. This area is a major source of water for the fragile Everglades and the southwestern part of the state. This sanctuary has a large variety of wildlife including alligators, herons, egrets, woodpeckers, bald eagles, wood storks, wild turkey, deer, mink, and the endangered Florida panther. Although it is called a swamp, this is not quite correct, as this preserve has marshlands, dry prairies, estuarine mangrove forests, pinelands, and islands of hardwoods hammocks. About one third of the preserve is covered with cypress trees, mostly the dwarf pond cypress variety. This is a preserve that will allow you to view the world as it was before humans arrived. The visitor center for the park is located 20 miles east of the small community of Ochopee on Us 41 (Tamiami Trail). Here you can view a 13-minute film about the preserve as well as look at exhibits about the natural resources, and the native animal and plant life living in Big Cypress. You will find five primitive campgrounds, hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, and scenic drives. A short nature trail, the Tree Snail Hammock Nature Trail, is across from the education center on Rt. 94, Loop Road, and explains local plants and animals. For additional information write to: Big Cypress National Preserve, HCR 61, Box 11, Ochopee, FL 34141.
Off US 41 (often known as the Tamiami Trail), and about 30 miles from Miami or 50 miles from the Everglade’s main visitor center (Coe Visitor Center) you will find Shark Valley. Although not located along the main park road, Shark Valley is part of the national park. This area is in the heart to the Everglades and contains a 15-mile loop road that is accessible only on foot, bike, or by taking the two-hour narrated tram tour. This tour is a wildlife-viewing trip that explores the sawgrass wilderness of Shark Valley and includes a 20-minute stop at the 65-foot observation tower at the southern end of the valley. At this look out point you will observe the panoramic view of the Shark River Slough and the sawgrass prairie. This is a view of Florida as it appeared to the Indians and Spanish explorers over 300 years ago. Bird and alligator viewing are considered to be some of the best in Shark Valley. Reservations for the tram are necessary during the busiest season (November – April) and can be made 1 to 3 weeks in advance.
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