Established on October 4, 1974, Big Cypress National Preserve is a huge swath of swampland occupying over 720,000 acres and located in southern Florida, west of Miami. Big Cypress NP shares a border and is often paired in spirit with Everglades National Park. Hosting nearly one million visitors in 2011, it is a great destination for strong men and women who can brave the weather and the bugs. There is no admission fee.
The most prominent feature of Big Cypress is its wetland wilderness. Though it may include an ecological environment familiar to Floridians, the wetlands of this preserve will be alien to most visitors. Perhaps what makes it even more fascinating is the fact that you can engage it so thoroughly. Trails designed for feet, wheels, and water vessels zigzag across the entire preserve, allowing you to really submerge yourself into the wilderness.
Whether you’re artsy or adventurous, there are lots of fun things to do in Big Cypress.
• Non-car motoring – offroading is a popular pastime here. Through the heart of the park, there are more ATV and swamp buggy trails than you could tire of in a month. In the southeastern corner of the preserve are airboat trails, for visitors who want an authentic, southern swamp experience.
• Hiking – hoofing it in Big Cypress comes with some risks and some new perspectives. Hitting the trails in the wet season can allow you the opportunity to trudge through freshwater as much as waist deep! If you’re not up for such a unique adventure, you can always wonder down a portion of the Florida National Scenic Trail, which meanders through the preserve.
• Extracurriculars – generally, I’ll keep my suggestions nature-minded, but Big Cypress NP offers too many extras to ignore. They host poetry contests, art exhibitions, swamp festivals, and more. If you’re planning a visit, be sure to take a look at the activity schedule for special events.
There are certain risks you should be aware of while in Big Cypress NP. The weather here is somewhat volatile and lightning strikes are always a real threat. During the hunting season, you could also encounter men and women bearing arms. I highly recommend investing in a bright orange vest if you’ll be walking around the preserve during the hunting season.
If you want to see as much as you can as quickly as you can, Loop Road is a must-travel. The 24-mile drive will provide brief glimpses into many of the park’s beautiful landscapes. You’ll drive through swamp, strands, pineland, and sawgrass prairies.
Want to get off the road and leave the people behind? Then you need to check out the Windmill Prairie. Located right in the center of your park map, Windmill Prairie is 10-15 miles from the nearest road and can let you get into the thick of the wilderness. If you venture on foot, you’ll really be trudging, so you’re best off bringing your ATV or swamp buggy.
From the west, take I-75S to Exit 80 at SR-29. Follow SR-29S to US-41S. US-41S will take you to the Welcome Center.
From the north, take US-41S straight to the preserve.
From the east, take I-75N to Exit 80 at SR-29. Follow SR-29S to US-41S, which will take you to the welcome center.