Big Cypress National PreserveBig Cypress National Preserve is a National Preserve in the state of Florida. It is adjacent to Everglades National Park.
The Preserve protects over 720,000 acres (2,913 km²) of freshwater swamp essential to the health of the Everglades ecosystem.
South Florida experiences two main seasons.
- Oasis Visitor Center, US Route 41, west of Miami and 50 miles east of Naples. Daily 9AM-4:30PM except Christmas (Off-Road Vehicle Permit Office, 9AM-3:30PM). ORV inspections are conducted Friday through Monday. The visitor center offers exhibits related to the natural and cultural history of the preserve, educational materials and an introductory film to the preserve, its resources and recreational opportunities. Staff is available to assist visitors with information about activities.
HistorySince the mid-1800s, the Big Cypress Swamp has served as home or refuge to American Indian peoples including the Miccosukee Tribe, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida as well as early European settlers. The descendents of these people can still be found living here.
Flora and fauna
South Florida experiences two main seasons.
- A rainy season runs from May to October marked by hot muggy days, daily afternoon rains, some tropical hurricanes, and bugs. For the prepared it is a good time to see dramatic storms and beautiful flowering plants.
- The dry season is from November through April. The dry season has cool, dry days that tend to be breezy. An abundance of wildlife can be seen in many areas. Many visitors are in the area as well.
Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley) and US Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail) are the main roads that traverse the preserve. Visitor facilities and most activities originate from the Tamiami Trail. The Oasis Visitor Center is located along the Tamiami Trail, 50 miles west of Miami and 50 miles east of Naples.
Fees and permits
There are no entrance fees. An annual ORV permit, displayed on the inspected vehicle, is required for ORV operation along preserve trails ($50 in 2006). The permit can be obtained at the Oasis Visitor Center.
Once at the preserve, hiking or off-road vehicles (permit required).
Ranger-led activitiesphone: +1 239-695-1201 (Oasis Visitor Center)Require advance reservations to participate. Reservations are accepted up to 14 days prior to the date of the activity. Contact the Oasis Visitor Center for details on activities and to make reservations. You may request reservations by email from their web site.
- Hunting is a long-established recreational activity in the area. Hunters were instrumental in protecting this corner of remote, wild Florida. Hunting activities continue today and include seasons for archery, muzzle loading and general gun. Typical game species are white-tailed deer, turkey and hogs. Alligator hunting is not allowed within the preserve. Management is joint with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Regulations.
- Off-road vehicles Permit required. See here.
Hiking trailsAn agreement with the Seminole Tribe allows hikers in the preserve. You must file the proper paper work with the Seminole Tribe; the form available from Florida Trail Association.
Hiking is allowed through unmarked areas as well as on this marked trail:
- The Florida Trail This trail stretches across Florida from Gulf Islands National Seashore to Big Cypress National Preserve. The southernmost sections of the Florida National Scenic Trail lie within the preserve. The preserve portion of the trail can be logically divided into three sections:
- Loop Road to Highway 41 - approximately one way. Begins (or ends) at the Loop Road approximately from its east end on Highway 41. The other end is across the highway from the Oasis Visitor Center. Maps are available on the Florida Trail Association webpage, or call the visitor center for detailed directions. The trail winds through dwarf cypress and prairies and crosses through Robert's Lake Strand. It is well marked and of easy to moderate difficulty in the winter season, but knee to waist deep in water during the rainy season. This part of the trail is an easy and well-marked way to take a short walk into the Preserve to get that "out in the middle of nowhere" feeling. Sometimes the only sounds you hear are wind and the occasional jet flying over.
- Highway 41 to Interstate 75 - approximately one way. Trailheads are located on Highway 41 near Big Cypress Visitor Center and on Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley) at the rest area at mile marker 63. The trail passes through a variety of habitat types including hardwood hammocks, pinelands, prairies and cypress. Some high ground is available for camping at 13-mile camp. During the dry season, there is no water available on this entire route. You must carry all water! This walk is not for the casual hiker. It is not heavily marked and vegetation grows over it during the rainy season when there is little foot traffic.
- Interstate 75 to Preserve North Boundary - approximately one way. This section of trail follows Nobles Grade, an old oil road, through hardwood, prairie and pinelands. Beyond the Preserve Boundary the trail is limited to a small number of hikers per month who are members of the Florida Trail Association traveling through the Seminole Reservation.
CampingCampgrounds may close seasonally, temporarily for repairs or for resource concerns. Contact the Oasis Visitor Center, +1-239-695-1201 for campground availability and information on closures. All campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Camping is limited to 10 days.
- Bear Island Campground. Open year round. Primitive camping with no water or rest room facilities. Three designated, primitive campgrounds: Bear Island (40 sites), Pink Jeep (9 sites) and Gator Pit (9 sites). Pink Jeep and Gator Pit require an Off-Road Vehicle Permit to access. Access to the Bear Island area is along a secondary gravel road.
- Burns Lake Campground. Open September 1 - January 6. Primitive camping with no water or rest room facilities. 40 designated sites available.
- Monument Lake Campground. Open September 1 - April 15. Monument Lake campground offers restrooms, drinking water and designated 26 RV and 10 tent sites. An outside, cold water shower is also available. No hookups for electricity, sewer or water are available at this campground. RV and Tent sites $16 per night or $8 with Golden Age/Access Passport. Campers are allowed to use the Dona Drive or Midway Campground dump station at no cost while staying in preserve.
- Midway Campground. Open year round. This campground offers a dump station, restrooms, drinking water, day-use area, 26 RV and 10 tent sites. RV sites allow electric hookup. RV site $19 per night or $10 with Golden Age/Access Passport; Tent site $16 per night or $8 with Golden Age/Access Passport (2006). Dump station free to campers.
- Pinecrest Campground. Open year round. Primitive camping with no water or rest room facilities. 10 sites available. Access to the Pinecrest Campground is along a secondary gravel road.
- Mitchell's Landing Campground. Open year round. Primitive camping with no water or rest room facilities. 15 sites available. Access to the Mitchell's Landing Campground is along a secondary gravel road.