A Swamp Walk, 10,000 Islands, Alligators & More
We spent a weekend in the Everglades, and are ready to go back. This will be one of many Everglades forays we plan to share with you.
We began with a wonderful Big Cypress Swamp Walk hosted by the Big Cypress Gallery, off Hwy. 41 (into the Everglades) with the tour on the same property. The gallery is home to a beautiful collection of enlarged black and white photos by the famed photographer, Clyde Butcher, considered the Ansel Adams of Florida.
Our guide was a gifted botanist. Lucky for us, she brought her boyfriend who happened to be a park ranger and biologist with the nearby Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. The two-hour walking tour focused on the flora and fauna and was narrated in full technicolor with a vivid display of the Big Cypress Swamp ecological wonders. Adventurous visitors carry walking sticks, wading through waist-deep clear, cool swamp. No worry about alligators or snakes, the guides are careful to avoid those areas. The stunning silence and stillness of a swamp is striking and native orchids are abundant throughout, carefully pointed out by the guides.
We stayed in the Rod and Gun Club in Everglades City. It is legendary for the famous names who have stayed there – presidents, movie stars and the like who came to fish and enjoy the 10,000 islands. The Rod and Gun Club is old Florida – with cabins and good accommodations. If you catch your fish dinner that day, they will cook it in the restaurant.
We took the Tiger Tail Boat Tours off US 41. It was recommended by locals. We loaded onto an airboat, with ear protection equipment to safely protect ourselves from the loud roar of the engine. It’s an interesting sensation and experience with the roaring engine but the smooth gliding effect makes for a fun ride. You are riding on top of the shallow water, barely touching the water lilies everywhere. Our tour guide was a young man and member of the Tiger Tail family who was very familiar with the “native culture.” We enjoyed a visit to several small islands in the Everglades – one of which featured a tiny animal preserve for alligators, hogs, turtles and snakes. We also visited the Tiger Tail family tree island witnesssing the sample native homes or “chickee huts” giving us a sense of what it was like to experience native life. The home was situated above the swamp and alligators were everywhere. A unique experience, and the air boat trip alone was worth the price of admission.
National Park Boat Tour – Mangrove Wilderness Tour
Departing from the Everglades City ranger station off the Chokoloskee Causeway, we boarded a 6 passenger boat through the 10,000 Islands and through a mangrove canal. It was lovely. There was some nice wildlife – ospreys, herons, ibis….very enjoyable. Following the boat tour, we continued to travel south to the historic Smallwood Trading Post, established in 1906 which served as a post office and trading post for early settlers and Seminole Indians. It features artifacts and historical displays. One can easily visualize the Seminole Indians paddling up to the store to trade their goods with Ted Smallwood.
The Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
Considered the “Amazon of North America”, the Fakahatchee Strand is a “major drainage slough of the Big Cypress Swamp.” A strand is loosely defined as a strip of land along a body of water. In the case of the Fakahatchee, it is 20 miles long and 5 miles wide. It is home to many habitats and forests – from swamps to tropical hardwood hammocks. It is also known for groves of royal palms, mixed hardwoods, native orchids and bromelaids. Be on the look out for Florida panthers and Black Bears – known to be sighted in the area. We are headed back soon to plan more time for exploration.