Corbitt's National Parks
     Big Cypress
               National Preserve


1974: National Preserve

Size: 729,000 acres

2008 visitors: 813,790

Stamp: Yes

Rating (1-5):

About the Site

Big Cypress National Preserve was established in 1974 to add to the acreage already preserved in Everglades National Park. The area of Big Cypress was expanded to 729,000 acres in 1988, and it protects an important watershed area of southern Florida. The more than 60 inches of rain that falls annually flood the cypress strands and prairies before flowing slowly to the south, through Everglades. The "Big" in Big Cypress doesn't refer to the size of the trees, but rather the swamp's extent of more than 2,400 square miles of subtropical land.

Early indian tribes, such as the Calusa, Middosukee, and Seminoles, lived here. Escaped slaves also found refuge in the swamp. But then came speculators, loggers, oil rigs and plantations. Then came roads and drainage canals that parched extensive tracts in hopes of making a fortune. But what most people didn't realize was that the main resource was water, water that flowed so slowly it took a day to go half a mile closer to the ocean.

It wasn't until the late 1960's and 1970's that the unbridled economic development became an obvious threat to the health of Everglades. Today Florida is involved in improving environmental efforts, and this Preserve is one step in returning the land back over to Nature, while allowing for recreational enjoyment.

What You're Going to See

You're going to see lots of water, lots of sawgrass and marshes, and scattered stands of trees. You'll have decent luck getting a picture of a alligator. There are plenty of birds and snakes too. There is plenty to do, including bicycling, bird-watching, fishing, hiking, hunting, off-road-vehicle driving, picnicking, scenic driving, and wildlife viewing.

Personal Observations

I was surprised at the paucity of mosquitos. I'd been attacked at Biscayne Bay, but as I wandered along the paths here in Big Cypress I didn't need the Off! at all.

By the time I'd traveled on the Tamiami trail, I'd learned that most of south Florida was originally one slow-moving river. The road I was driving on, along with others, cut across that river and dammed it, causing all kinds of problems with the ecology. Recently, some steps have been taken to ameliorate this disturbance. Canals have been put in under the road in several places, allowing more natural flow of water.

I drove down a graded dirt/rock road on my way back to Miami, the Loop Road, and got a good look at several parts of the Preserve. It was on that road that I took most of the photos here, including the photo of the alligator at rest on the log (the picture of the swimming alligator, and of the baby reptile, came while exploring around the Visitor Center). A few times on the Loop I'd come across another visitor who was already parked by the side of the road, and since I knew my ability to spot wildlife was practically non-existant, I pulled over too. I stepped eagerly out of the car to see what they had seen; once it was an alligator, a few other times it was snakes and birds. Only later did I realize that in my haste to get out of the car, I could easily have been attacked. I didn't look before exiting.

I was amazed by the clear, shallow, slow-moving water. Nothing in Arizona had prepared me for that kind of environment, let me tell you. The water seemed so pure I couldn't see the boundary between dry and wet; several of the photos I took try to show that.

Getting There

From Miami, go west on US 41 for about 60 miles to Monroe Station, about the center of the Preserve.

Nearby Attractions

Everglades National Park is directly south of the Preserve. Biscayne National Park is about 50 miles east southeast. Dry Tortugas National Park is about 100 miles to the southwest; bring a boat.

Visited July 2006

Additional Photos