National Parks: Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

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March 14, 2009

cypress trees with ferns in swampland, Big Cypress National Preserve, FloridaBig Cypress National Preserve (designated 1974) protects 720,000 acres of freshwater swamplands that nourish the health of the neighboring Everglades ecosystems. These swamp waters also support marine estuaries on the southwest coast of Florida, making this a great park for wildlife viewing. A diverse array of tropical and temperate plants thrive here, as well as exotic animals like bears (yes, bears!), alligators and panthers.

There are several national parks in the South Florida region. Each of them is worth a look while you’re in the area. Look over the NPS South Florida Trip Planner to get great ideas for planning your tropical adventure! Since this PDF is a few years old, I recommend calling any of the information center phone numbers for updated park fees and schedules.

The Great White Heron looks like the Great White Egret, but it has yellow legs while the egret has black legs. South Florida is the only place in the U.S. to find the Great White Heron.General Information: The Oasis Visitor Center is a great place to start for specific, updated information about park activities and conditions. You can watch an introductory video about the park and its recreational activities, and also view exhibits about the preserve’s natural and cultural significance. The center is located on U.S. 41 about 50 miles west of Miami and 50 miles east of Naples. It is open from 9:00 – 4:30 every day except Christmas. Park staff will be happy to answer your questions.

Fees: There is no entrance fee for the preserve, but certain facilities within the park may charge for access. Senior discounts are available.

NPS Ranger leading a group tour of Big Cypress National Preserve, FloridaAttractions: Ranger-led activities are popular options for seeing the sights and learning about the preserve’s history and ecological significance. Rangers conduct several accessible nature walks in addition to canoe tours, bike rides and evening campfire programs.

Hiking the many trails is another great way to see the preserve’s natural beauty. However, seasonal weather makes for vastly different hiking conditions, so plan accordingly. Sportsmen will enjoy seasonal hunting of white-tailed deer, turkey and hogs. Thrill-seekers take heed: alligator hunting is not allowed.

Camping Info: Big Cypress National Preserve features two first-come-first-served RV campgrounds: one with hookups and one without. For full details, ask the park staff at the Oasis Visitor Center upon your arrival or phone ahead to (239) 695-1201.

Monument Lake Campground is only open from August 28 through April 15, and has no hookups whatsoever. The camp does provide restrooms, drinking water, and a cold, outdoor shower. There are 26 RV sites at $16 per night. Campers can use the dump station at no charge.

Midway Campground is open year round. It has 26 RV sites with electrical hookups at $19 per night. The camp includes restrooms, drinking water and a day-use area. Campers can use the dump station at no charge.

RV campsites at Naples Gardens, Naples FloridaIf you’d prefer camping with all the amenities, try Naples Gardens (formerly Kountree Kampinn RV Resort) in Naples, just 36 miles west of Ochopee on U.S. 41. This pet-friendly park features a heated pool, laundry facility, general store and a dump station. They have pull-thru and back-in sites with limited space for big rigs and slideouts. Each site has full hookups (30/50 amp electrical). Rates range from $45-$60 per night depending on the season. They also offer recreational activities such as bingo, shuffleboard and more.

Weather: The rainy season (May-October) is hot, humid and full of mosquitoes. Temperatures average in the 80s and you can expect daily afternoon thunderstorms. If you can bear it, fringe benefits include far fewer crowds and the chance to see flowering plants in full bloom. The dry season (November-April) is the busy season, as many migrating birds settle in and the mosquito population dies off. Days are typically cool, dry and breezy. Low water levels concentrate greater numbers of animals in the same ponds and canals for your viewing pleasure. The drier conditions also make for more pleasant hiking, canoeing and camping excursions.

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  2. Al Normand

    Kountyr Kamping, is located on (County Road 951) aka: Collier Blvd.,
    There are also a number of other fine Parks in the area for “Big” Rigs” a least 5 of them
    and a KOA