The Everglades National Park & Big Cypress National Preserve
While we were in the area, we took a couple days to explore the Everglades and Big Cypress by car. We had planned to camp and hike, but two things deterred us. First, the bugs are bad even this time of year. You get bit a few times just walking from the car to the restroom. Second, if you have a dog, there’s no hiking. I suppose the threat of alligators and panthers is a good enough reason for leaving Rover in the car.
Unfortunately for us, most of the Everglades and Big Cypress need to be seen on foot or by canoe. So we were basically confined to a few short boardwalks out through the trees into some of the marshy areas and what we could see from the road.
Day 1 – Flamingo
After leaving Key West, we headed into the Everglades, down the main road to Flamingo. Flamingo is basically a ghost town. Apparently people used to live there, but now there’s little there except a marina and an abandoned gas station.
There actually wasn’t much to see on this drive. There are trees on both sides of the road, so you can’t see a lot. However, there are a few turn-offs and boardwalks that get you beyond the tree line to see creeks, bays, and marshes.
The one thing you do see are birds. Lots and lots of birds of all shapes, colors and sizes. So if you’re an aviphile, you would definitely enjoy a visit to the Everglades, even if you can’t do much more than drive through it.
Day 2 – Big Cypress
Our second day in the Everglades was spent driving from the east side to the west side, crossing through parts of The Everglades, as well as Big Cypress National Preserve. The funny thing is, 95% of the alligators we saw on this trip were in Big Cypress. The great thing is that you don’t even have to get out of your car to see them.
Florida 90/US 41 cuts directly across the width of The Everglades. Right beside the road the entire way is a small creek teeming with wildlife: alligators, various birds, and large turtles (not to mention countless insects!). Luckily, it’s not a heavily traveled road, so we were able to stop and get tons of pictures, which you’ll see below. Supposedly there are wild boar and deer through here too, but we didn’t see any.
There are quite a few hiking options, mostly ranging from 1/2 mile to 2 miles. On the Everglades site, I saw one 7.5 mile option and trails from Long Pine Key Campground that interconnect to form up to 28 miles.
One of these days, we’ll get back down there and find a way to go into the park without Knox so that we can really get out and walk the trails to see everything these areas provide. It’s an interesting ecosystem unlike anything we’ve seen before, and driving through it just isn’t sufficient to get the full experience even with all the wildlife we got to see.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, it’s a felony to feed the gators.
Here are the pictures that we did manage to get on our drive through.