Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve
Tel: (941) 695-4593
About 10 km (6-miles) north of Everglades City, this 26,325 hectare (65,000 acre) preserve is one of the wildest areas left in Florida. The Preserve extends from Alligator Alley (or I-75) in the north to Everglades National Park and Ten Thousand Islands in the South.
Fakahatchee Strand contains North America’s largest stand of native royal palms, and the area is famous for its orchids, rare ferns and bromeliads. This forested wetland was once logged for cypress and today the logging roads, called ‘trams,’ provide the only way to get around. Most of the trams are overgrown with vegetation but some have been cleared for hiking and driving. The area is one of the strongholds for the endangered Florida Panther. White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbills, herons, egrets, Barred Owls and Red Shouldered Hawks are regularly observed.
Facilities and access to the Fakahatchee are limited, but it is well worth taking the trouble to locate and drive ‘Janes Scenic Drive’, which is an 11-mile trip along an unpaved but passable dirt road. (For a map, download the PDF of the map, from the park web site above). Or, from US 41 turn north on SR 29. Take the first road on the left, go to the stop sign and turn right. You will be on a rather backwoods-looking dirt road, and in a mile or so you will see the Preserve Office and a Fire Tower. The road becomes ‘Janes Scenic Drive,’ and though it might not seem like it, it is possible to drive it in a regular car. You will get a unique close up look at the swamp forest with its epiphytes and orchids. This is the setting for Susan Orlean’s novel “The Orchid Thief.”
When you get to the other edge of the Preserve turn around and retrace your route as the road disintegrates into a maze of often impassible tracks in the area known as the Golden Gate Estates.
A more accessible part of the Preserve is the boardwalk at Big Cypress Bend. This is on the north side of US 41, next to the Seminole Village. The boardwalk is about half a mile long and takes you into a swamp where you can see virgin Bald cypress.
More information on their web site
Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve web site
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