Learn about the Greater Naples Parks and Preserves
If you are looking to learn more about native Florida than you will want to visit one of Greater Naples Parks and Preserves.
Big Cypress National Preserve is the first National Preserve established in the National Park System. Containing a mixture of pines, hardwoods, cypress stands, mangrove forests and prairies mixed with palm trees, mangrove and orchids, the park is home to alligators, herons, bald eagles, black bears white-tailed deer, bobcats and the endangered Florida panther. Camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking and bird watching are popular, and visitors always enjoy watching the wood storks feeding along the roadside canals or searching for signs of a Florida panther or black bear.
The park serves as a vital supply of fresh, clean water for the estuaries of the Ten Thousand Islands area. The “big” in Big Cypress referrers not to the size of the trees but to the more than 2,400 square miles of swamp, sandy islands, wet and dry prairies, marshes and mangrove forests.
Big Cypress National Preserve is located in eastern Collier County with two visitor centers on Tamiami Trail 53 miles from downtown Naples.
Owned and operated by the National Audubon Society, the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary consists of 13,000 acres of pine flatwoods, wet prairie, wetlands, marsh and North Americas largest old growth Bald Cypress forest. Some of these magnificent giants are 400 to 700 years old, have trunks as large as 25 feet in circumference and tower 130 feet into the sky.
A two and a quarter mile long boardwalk meanders through the sanctuary and the boardwalk is a great place to see alligators, white-tailed deer, otters, red-bellied turtles, raptors and spectacular wading and songbirds. Make sure to take your camera as a great photo is just around the next bend.
The Sanctuary is home to the largest remaining breeding ground for the endangered wood stork. When the winter water levels are low and the pools are teaming with fish, the storks to begin nesting as there is adequate food to raise their young.
Your visit is not complete without stopping at the environmentally friendly Blair Audubon Visitor Center. The Center has an art gallery, educational exhibits, a Nature Store where you can purchase gifts as well at the Gallery Café for snacks and drinks.
The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is located at 375 Sanctuary Road West off of Immokalee Road in North Naples.
The Collier-Seminole State Park features a wealth of vegetation and wildlife typical of the Everglades plus a forest made up of tropical trees. The Park lies at the north edge of Florida´s great mangrove swamp and the south edge of Big Cypress Swamp. Here you will find fresh and salt water estuaries, tropical and temperate zone vegetation and a great diversity of plants. Although rare elsewhere, the Florida royal palm is a common. The park´s original intent was preservation of royal palms and it serves as a memorial to both the Seminole and the U.S. Army fighting in the Seminole Wars.
The park has the only walking dredge left in the country. This unique piece of construction equipment was used to build the Tamiami Trail, the section of US 41 running from Miami to Tampa. Odd looking, it moved by lifting its legs and crawling forward a few feet at a time.
Hiking, bicycling, and canoeing trails offer opportunities for visitors to explore the park´s remarkable wilderness. The park has canoe rentals along with a boat ramp that provides access to the Blackwater River and anglers can enjoy both freshwater and saltwater fishing. Campers can spend the night in a full-facility campground and the picnic areas have pavilions and grills for use on a first-come-first-served basis. The park concession also has a snack shop and offers boat tours.
The Clollier-Seminole State park is located on U.S. 41, 17 miles south of Naples and is definitely worth the time is visiting one of South West Florida’s National and State Parks is on our agenda.
Located on the southern tip of the Florida peninsula, the 1.5-million-acre park is the only subtropical preserve in North America. Made up of vast saw-grass prairies, deep mangrove and cypress swamps, pinelands and hardwood hammocks, subtropical jungles, and the warm waters of Florida Bay, it is rich in wildlife and a bird watcher´s paradise. Here you will find the white ibis, roseate spoonbill, wood stork, great blue heron, bald eagle, osprey, pelican and a variety of egrets, just to name a few. It is also the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles exist side by side.
There is no better place to start your trip than the Gulf Coast Ranger Station which is less than an hour from Naples. At the small visitor’s center you can familiarize yourself with the region and then take a guided boat cruise among the mangrove islands or rent a canoe and venture out on your own. Those who opt to rent a canoe can paddle among the mangroves for a few hours or, take the ultimate trip, a five to seven day paddle on the Wilderness Waterway. The best time of year is the winter when the temperatures are lower and the swarms of mosquitoes fewer.
Everglades National Park is the crown jewel of South West Florida’s National and State Parks and you should definitely set aside some time to enjoy this River of Grass. The closest entrance to Everglades National Park is in Everglades City. Just follow the signs.
Winding through the Florida Everglades is a narrow thread of forested swamp approximately twenty miles long and five miles wide. This slow moving river is a vast wilderness of royal palm stands, cypress domes, and grassy prairies dotted with wild bromeliads, native ferns, and over 44 varieties of native orchids. Here you will find the Florida panther, white-tailed deer, Florida black bear, Everglade mink and a spectacular population of resident and migratory birds.
The 2000 foot Boardwalk provides visitors a glimpse into the past as it winds through a magnificent old growth cypress forest. Bicyclist enjoy a scenic ride along the 11 mile unpaved road through the preserve while canoeists and kayakers enjoy exploring the more remote areas. Anglers ply the mangrove-hugged backwaters for snook, snapper, tarpon and redfish while bird watchers enjoy spotting bald eagles and wood storks.
The Fakahatchee Strand is located west of Copeland, off of US 41 on State Road 29, 42 miles from downtown Naples.
I hope you found the above information about Greater Naples Parks and Preserves and will take time to visit one or more.