If you are a first time visitor to South West Florida,
you must visit the Loop Road in the Big Cypress National
Preserve in the Everglades National Park.
The Loop Road begins at the junction of 41 at the historic
The entire length is approximately 26 miles;
most people turn around after the first 7 miles, since the main
bird sanctuaries [Strands] and prairies are within the first 6.5
miles of the Road.
The Loop Road shares a history with orchid poachers, pot
farmers and good old moonshiners.
The ghost orchid usually blooms in late July, pending the
right conditions. It's prolific in the Fakahatchee Strand
State Park and it can also be seen growing along the Loop Road.
The book, The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, is a
The gravelly road is sometimes exasperating: you may
find a gape mouthed alligator leisurely crossing the road,
or one that has decided to sunbathe smack in the middle
of the road. It's an exciting adventure to come face to face
with a gator, but one that should be approached with caution.
Travel speed of an alligator is 35 mph, though short-lived since
he tires easily. You definitely don't want to test his speed!
The Preserve is a blissfully peaceful area: the prevailing
sounds of alligators slapping in the water, the symphonic
rhythm from the crickets, frogs, herons, egrets and night herons,
echo through the cedar hammock forest.
It's a welcome elixir from city noise.
Pythons are an unwelcome inhabitant of the Everglades.
The Fish and Wildlife Service crews drive the roads nightly
capturing Burmese Pythons.
It's been said that the python population has reached upwards
of 110,000 within the Everglades Park.
Other deadly snakes inhabit the Everglades: the pygmy
and the cottonmouth to name two.
Panthers inhabit the forests and are sometimes spotted crossing the roads.
Info from the internet:
Everglades National Park magnets: wheelchair accessible walkways at Anhinga Trail, Gumbo Limbo Trail, Pahayokee Overlook, Mahogany Hammock, and West Lake Trail.
What will I see? Birds and alligators at Anhinga; tropical hardwood hammock at Gumbo Limbo; an overlook of the River of Grass from Pahayokee's tower; a subtropical tree island with massive mahogany growth along Mahogany Hammock; and a forest of mangrove trees on West Lake Trail.
For a short visit: Flamingo's Eco Pond provides for waterside wildlife viewing.
With more time: Shark Valley lets you combine the quarter-mile Bobcat Boardwalk (looping through sawgrass prairie and a bayhead) with the 1-mi-long round-trip Otter Cave, allowing you to steep in subtropical hardwood hammock.
Want a tour? Pahayokee and Flamingo feature informative ranger-led walks.Take the Swamp Walk, an impressive tour given by Clyde Butcher, renown Everglades photographer. Info can be obtained from his Gallery below.