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Big Cypress National Preserve, Ochopee

Categories: Wildlife Areas, Nature & Parks
Inspirock Rating:
4.5/5 based on 320+ reviews on the web
Big Cypress National Preserve is a United States National Preserve located in southern Florida, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Miami. The 720000acre Big Cypress, along with Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, became the first national preserves in the United States National Park System when they were established on 11 October 1974. In 2008, Florida film producer Elam Stoltzfus featured this preserve in a PBS documentary.Geography and history of establishmentBig Cypress borders the wet freshwater prairies of Everglades National Park to the south, and other state and federally protected cypress country in the west, with water from the Big Cypress flowing south and west into the coastal Ten Thousand Islands region 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, Big Cypress was ultimately released from the park system.Human use and impactEcologically, the preserve is slightly more elevated than the western Everglades. Big Cypress was historically occupied by various cultures of Native Americans; the last were the Seminole of the nineteenth century. Their descendants include the federally recognized Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
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  • If you love the outdoors and are in South Florida, this Preserve is a "must see" place. My husband and I loved learning about this special place. Go visit and learn more about water and immensely impo...  read more »
  • This is a whole other area right next to the Everglades, about 30 min west down the road after Shark Valley. This place has a whole host of trails and a great visitor's center as well, but I'd encoura...  read more »
  • There are trails, a wonderful visitors' center, and many various opportunities for activities. You could spend days, here. Be careful about snakes, alligators, and panthers, however. Oh, what a beauti...  read more »
  • This place is definitely overshadowed by the Everglades National Park, but, in my book, has plenty to offer. Try to get a reservation for the FREE ranger led canoe trip. It's about 5 hours out and back and you are guaranteed to be up close and personal with some alligators and other wildlife!
  • I was told by a ranger there that this is the first national preserve in the National Park System. There is also free ranger led programs. Preserve is filled with variety of tropical plants and wildlife. Nice Boardwalk to safely enjoy alligator watching or a breeze stroll.
  • Amazing and beautiful place to go camping with the family. Great scenery and wildlife.
  • My favorite places are off the beaten track, especially the trails off of State Road 29 in Collier county. Miles and miles of trails to hike and explore. Keep an eye out for alligators, and the rare Florida panther.
  • I am a photographer and writer for National Park Planner and I visited Big Cypress National Preserve in February 2015. Big Cypress is the somewhat overlooked counterpart to its southern neighbor, Everglades National Park. You will find countless Everglades-related web sites and reviews that blatantly refer to locations in Big Cypress as part of the Everglades. While the two parks are distinct entities and even have a major ecological difference, in the minds of most people the entire area is the Everglades and tourists visiting locations in one park will certainly be visiting the other without making any mental distinctions between the two. This is understandable, especially considering that much of Big Cypress was originally marked for inclusion in the Everglades National Park, but the landowners protested and it remained in private hands. However, in the 1960s Miami started building an international airport on the eastern side of today’s park and the residents soon realized that it wouldn’t be long before the metropolis of Miami connected all the way across the state with Tampa. This sent them crawling back to the federal government begging for protection and in 1974 Big Cypress National Preserve was established. A long runway is all that was ever constructed of the proposed airport. The fundamental difference between Big Cypress and the Everglades is that Big Cypress is mainly a cypress swamp while the Everglades is a prairie that is submerged by a slow moving and very shallow sheet of water created by the yearly overflow of Lake Okeechobee. The water in the Big Cypress swamp is rainwater. Different elevations within Big Cypress result in different habitats. The lowest areas are the Cypress swamps and prairies that are underwater during the wet season (May-September). At the higher elevations, often only a few feet higher than the swamps, are pine and hardwood forests. To the south nearest the Everglades are estuaries. Big Cypress has the co-distinction of being the nation’s first “Preserve,” having been authorized by Congress on the same day as Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas. A Preserve is a unique park designation in that while development of the area was stifled, traditional activities such as hunting, fishing, backcountry camping, and travel through the swamps on Swamp Buggies and ATVs is allowed. Even oil and gas exploration and extraction on the land continues today. Furthermore, those who owned property within the park boundary were allowed to keep it, which is why you may stumble upon “No Trespassing” signs while wandering through what appears to be the middle of nowhere. While the majority of Big Cypress National Preserve is accessible only to those rugged enough to tackle remote hiking and off-road vehicle driving, there is still plenty to do for the tourists passing through the area. Most activities are found along Highway 41 (aka Tamiami Trail), which crosses the southern section of the park from east to west. The highway was built in the 1920s to connect Miami with Tampa, thus the cute name. There are numerous developed campgrounds and picnic areas along the road. The National Park Service offers guided tours, talks, and walks throughout the tourist season from November through April. These include swamp walks, canoe trips, and hikes into the backcounty, all of which are free. Approved concessionaires also offer guided, outdoor activities. In addition, there are plenty of places to see wildlife such as alligators and exotic birds, often without having to stray far from your vehicle. For complete information on visiting Big Cypress and nearly 200 quality photos, visit National Park Planner (npplan).
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