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Big Cypress National Preserve

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Address:
33100 Tamiami Trail East
Ochopee, Florida 34141

Phone:
239.695.1164
Visitor Information
239.695.1201

Fax:
239.695.3901

Big Cypress National Preserve - Welcome
Big Cypress National Preserve: Overview
The 729,000 acre Big Cypress National Preserve was set aside in 1974 to ensure the preservation, conservation, and protection of the natural scenic, floral and faunal, and recreational values of the Big Cypress Watershed. The importance of this watershed to the Everglades National Park was a major consideration for its establishment. The name Big Cypress refers to the large size of this area. Vast expanses of cypress strands span this unique landscape.

The first National Preserve in the National Park System, Big Cypress has a mixture of pines, hardwoods, prairies, mangrove forests, cypress strands and domes. White-tailed deer, bear and Florida panther can be found here along with the more tropical linguus tree snail, royal palm and cigar orchid. This meeting place of temperate and tropical species is a hotbed of biological diversity. Hydrologically, the Preserve serves as a supply of fresh, clean water for the vital estuaries of the ten thousand islands area near Everglades City.

Visitors will find a recreational paradise with camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking and birdwatching opportunities. Those passing through may be enticed to linger in this remnant of wild Florida to search for evidence of the elusive Florida panther or to watch an endangered woodstork feeding along a roadside canal.

Big Cypress National Preserve - The Basics
Operating Hours
The Preserve is open year around, 24 hours a day. The visitor center is open daily except December 25, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m

Getting There
I-75, state road 29, and U.S. 41 all travel through the preserve

Weather & Climate
The climate is sub-tropical, with mild winters and hot, wet summers. Heavy rains occur frequently during the summer months. Light weight clothing is suggested for hot temperatures. Long sleeves, pants, sturdy shoes, and bug repellent will make hiking more pleasant.

Accessibility
Inside the visitor center, restrooms, information desk, and preserve film are accessible. The film is also captioned for the hearing impaired.

Getting Around
The preserve includes 31 miles of the Florida Trail which can be very wet in the rainy season. The Tree Snail Hammock Nature Trail is a short, self-guided trail located on Loop Road. Two scenic drives through the preserve provide leisurely wildlife viewing. The Loop Road is a 26-mile, single-lane, unimproved road beginning and ending on highway 41. Turner River Road and Birdon Road form a u-shaped, 17-mile graded-dirt drive.

What's New
We have some new additions to tell people about:The new Kirby Storter Boardwalk is about a 1/2 mile long and winds across a prairie into a cypress strand.  It is wheel chair accessable.  It is located about 8 miles west of the visitor center on 41 The new canoe/kayak launch site is located just west of Turner River Rd on 41.

We offer Ranger Guided Wet Walks, Canoe Trips, Bike Hikes and other programs during the winter season. Updated schedules of these will be put on the web site, or call the Visitors Center for more information @ 239.695.1164.

Big Cypress National Preserve - Camping
Bear Island
Primitive camping with no water or rest room facilities.Campgrounds may close seasonally or temporarily for repairs or resource concerns. Please contact the visitor center for current campground information.Visitor Center phone number is 239-695-1201.

Midway
Midway Campground is being improved and will be open by season. It will have flush toilets, drinking water, an outside cold shower. It will also have electrical hookups for RVs and a dump station. Prices are: with hook-ups $19.00/night or $10.00 with the Golden Age Passport with out  $16.00/ night or $8.00 with Golden Age Passport.  Please contact the visitor center for current campground information. Visitor Center phone number is 239-695-1201.

Mitchell's Landing
Primitive camping with no water or rest room facilities. Campgrounds may close seasonally or temporarily for repairs or resource concerns. Please contact the visitor center for current campground information. Visitor Center phone number is 239-695-1201.

Monument Lake
Monument campground has flush toilets and water available. An outside, cold water shower is also available. The $16.00/ night or $8.00 with Golden Age Passport fee includes use of the dump station at Dona Drive in Ochopee. NO HOOKUPS for electricity, sewer or water are available in any of the National Park Service campgrounds in the Preserve. Campgrounds may close seasonally or temporarily for repairs or resource concerns. Please contact the visitor center for current campground information. Visitor Center phone number is 239-695-1201.

Pinecrest
Primitive camping with no water or rest room facilities. Campgrounds may close seasonally or temporarily for repairs or resource concerns. Please contact the visitor center for current campground information. Visitor Center phone number is 239-695-1201.

Big Cypress National Preserve - Oasis Visitors Center
-Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Closed December 25
-Phone: 239-695-1201
-Location: On Tamiami Trail (U.S.41) approximately half-way between Naples and Miami.
-Closures: The visitor center is closed on December 25.
-The visitor center offers a 15-minute movie about the preserve, a wildlife exhibit and book sales.

Big Cypress National Preserve - Nature & Science
The first National Preserve established in the National Park System has a mixture of pines, hardwoods and prairies mixed with palm trees, mangrove and orchids. White-tailed deer, bear and Florida panther can be found in the same areas as the more tropical linguus tree snail, cape sable seaside sparrow and roseate spoonbill. Hydrologically, the Preserve serves as a supply of fresh, clean water for the vital estuaries of the Ten Thousand Islands area. “Big” refers not to the tree’s size but to the swamp’s extent of more than 2,400 square miles in subtropical Florida. “Swamp” is a misnomer, for the land consists of sandy islands of slash pine, mixed hardwood hammocks (tree islands), wet prairies, dry prairies, marshes, and estuarine mangrove forests. Still, “swamp” somehow fits. At its best the swamp should be seen by any of us who dream of the world as it was before we humans arrived. Airplants, both bromeliads and orchids, perch on the cypress and hammock trees like strange bird nests. An occasional Florida panther leaves impressive paw marks in wet marl. Black bears claw crayfish from the sloughs or rip cabbage palmetto apart for its soft fruits.

Big Cypress is about one-third covered with cypress trees, mostly the dwarf pond cypress variety. Broad belts of these trees grow around the edge of wet prairies; cypress strands line the sloughs; and occasional cypress domes dot the horizon with the symmetry of paint bubbles. Giant cypresses are nearly gone. They are the great bald cypresses. Today’s few remaining giants, escapees of the lumber era, are extremely old; some as much as 600 to 700 years. Their bulbous bases flare downward and outward to root systems loosely locked in rich, wet organic peat. Their girths outstretch the combined embrace of you and 3 long-armed friends. The big cypress trees stand safe now, here in this national preserve, from earlier fates as gutters, coffins, stadium seats, pickle barrels, and the hulls of PT boats.

The main resource is water, fresh water wending slowly seaward, requiring a day to flow across a full mile of the land’s incredibly unrelieved flatness.

With completion of the Tamiami Trail in 1928, the Big Cypress became easily accessible; economic exploitation began in earnest. Lumbering boomed in the 1930’s and 1940’s; small settlements at Ochopee, Monroe Station, and Pinecrest, attracted rugged people. Many lived here as hunters, fishermen, guides, plant collectors, and cattlemen - latter day frontiersmen fleeing urban restraints. Florida’s first producing oil well was drilled in 1943 north of the present-day preserve, near Sunniland. During the 1960’s drainage of the Big Cypress began as land development and speculation schemes blossomed. Thousands invested sight unseen in land that was under water much of the year. Public interest burgeoned when jetport plans were unveiled in 1968 for the swamp’s eastern edge. The threat posed to the watershed of Everglades National Park sparked establishment of the Big Cypress National Preserve. The 1970’s brought more enlightened attitudes toward watersheds and wetlands. Today Florida is much involved in environmental protection efforts. Now we are back simply to trying nature’s way while allowing for recreational enjoyment.

Sixty inches of rain fall in an average year, beginning as clouds stacked up over the Gulf of Mexico. The rain falls and falls during a season of thunderstorms that usually begins each year in May. The rains flood the cypress strands and prairies before flowing slowly to the south through Everglades National Park. It is a slow drainage upon which creatures great and small have learned to depend. Only humans were quite slow to realize our dependence. The land slopes only two inches per mile to the Gulf of Mexico, causing a delayed drainage of the wet season’s water bounty, its life blood. The gradual drainage extends the wet season by 2 to 3 full months after the rains taper off in October. It also provides a steady mix of fresh water and salt water in the estuaries along the coast of Everglades National Park. This nutrient-rich mix supports marine animals such as pink shrimp, snook, and snapper, all important to Florida’s fishing industry. The swamp also provides vital water for several southwest Florida cities. During the wet season much of the landscape may flow with water belly-high to a great blue heron.

Most out-of-staters come here in the dry season, winter, to escape the rigors of snow and ice elsewhere. In the dry season water evaporates or flows into the estuaries downstream while the swamp’s aquatic life concentrates in the remaining deeper pools and sloughs. To these come stately wading birds, the herons and egrets and the unique wood stork. With some luck you may see alligators, red cockaded woodpeckers, wild turkey, deer, mink, or the bald eagle, as though the drying up of the water reduced these creatures’ hiding places. But this is illusion; life simply concentrates at its source - water. Amazing things have been seen here. A gar might flash silver-gold in the amber water under a bunch of orchid flowers. Herons and ibises were once measured here not by count but by the number of acres their numbers covered at one sighting. For sounds try the wild and unsettling wailing of the long-legged, long-billed, limpkin. And use your other senses, too. Feel the saw grass, not a true grass but a sedge, and in that feeling touch one of the oldest growing forms of this world.

Two worlds of beauty confront us here: the beauty of broad sweeps and limitless horizons; and the beauty of infinite miniature and interrelated worlds. One is the aerial view, perhaps of the swallowtail kite; the other is the view from a self-propelled canoe, or the view of a gator with only eyes and snout protruding from the water. That’s Big Cypress Swamp.

Information courtesy National Park Service

 
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