Ft. Myers, FL
Big Cypress is a large preserve located just west of Everglades National Park. When Everglades National Park was established in 1947, Big Cypress was originally intended to be included; however, because the land had not been purchased from its private owners, it was ultimately released from the park system. In 1974 it became the first national preserve in the National Parks System. One of the most popular activities in Big Cypress, is a four hour canoe trip led by a park ranger. They only have five canoes and the trip only runs three days a week, so it is difficult to get a reservation. When we stayed in the Everglades in December we tried to get a spot but the trip was booked for weeks. So we were please when friends Steve and MonaLiza told us they had reservations with another couple, but the other couple had to cancel. Great, they had two spots reserved that we could use!
So bright and early Sunday morning the four of us headed south into the Preserve. We met Ranger Andy at the the Big Cypress Welcome Center and drove a short distance to the boat launch. After unloading the canoes we put them into the canal and headed south to Half Way Creek.
After about two hours we entered into the Mangrove tunnels, where the creek becomes very narrow and overgrown.
Every so often we would stop and Ranger Andy (happy to be away from his cold home in Wisconsin) would give information about various plants, animals, and birds. Below he is showing us a plant that attaches itself to trees and requires no roots. If you have ever had an air fern, this plant is in the same family.
At one point we spotted something very white in the water near the shore. Andy paddled over and found it to be a dead bird. A large buzzard waited in the trees above us, probably thinking about a tasty lunch in the near future.
At another point Andy spotted an alligator with a large bucket that appeared to be covering it’s tail. A closer look revealed that the bucket posed no threat to the gator. This guy was huge and appeared to be very old (Andy said that, not sure how you tell the old from the middle age).
If we were ever to do this trip again, we would take the seats from our inflatable kayak, as four hours sitting on a metal seat in a canoe can be a bit hard on backs and bottoms.
We are so fortunate to have had the opportunity to take this trip. Before we came to Big Cypress last month others had highly recommended it, so we were disappointed when we couldn’t get a reservation. Many thanks to Steve and MonaLiza for sharing this with us!