When your original weekend plans are put on hold due to a tropical storm, you alter course and choose to spend the day in a swamp.
The Fakahatchee Strand Preserve, often called the “Amazon of North America,” is a 2o mile long stretch of pure forest. And that is the exact goal of the preserve, to keep it as natural as possible, and let me tell you, it really is pure wilderness. The road is a one way dirt road half flooded itself, surrounded by water on both sides, some of it shallow water, some a bit deeper. What’s special about the preserve is it is one of the last places to host a wide array of tropical plant species and Florida natives such as the endangered Florida Panther and the endangered Florida black bear which both share the preserve with white-tailed deer, bald eagles, owls, and of course, the American alligator.
While driving through the preserve is ideal for bigger cars, like trucks or jeeps, our Prius did a pretty good job 🙂 There are also trails where you can get out and walk, however it seems like hardly anyone actually does because the trails are completely covered by overgrown grass and bushes. In my opinion you have to be some type of crazy and/or Bear Grylls to even dare hike there.
The strand is an interesting place to see, it’s altogether beautiful, untouched by human greed but is also terrifying in a way where you could see a horror movie taking place there. I mean that in the nicest way, I swear. It’s just crazy that you’re on your own in a forest where if your car got stuck or ran out of gas, you would most likely be staying the night in a place surrounded by snakes, alligators, bears, and panthers. Although we weren’t lucky enough to cross paths with any black bears or panthers (probably due to the fact that they’re primarily nocturnal), we did happen to spot two alligators throughout the preserve. One swimming through the swamp about an hour into our trek and another sunbathing on a log an hour after that.
If you were the daredevil type, which I am not, you could literally walk out of the car and get as close as you wanted to the alligator. You would probably get attacked and never live to tell the story, but that’s what I mean by how wild and cathartic the experience is. Sure, you can do an Everglades tour, which we have, but you’re in an airboat where the guides literally know where the alligators are at all times and tell you up to 5 minutes before you see one, to look to your right.
At the preserve, you aren’t guaranteed to see anything which makes spotting an animal on your own that much more gratifying. Although I still definitely recommend doing an airboat tour!
After having explored Fakahatchee, we decided to drive down a bit to the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk. It’s an 2,500 foot boardwalk that guides you through the Fakahatchee forest in a much safer method of walking, aka, along a boardwalk above the water itself.
For anyone as nerdy as I am about the environment and biology, it’s super educational. I’m one of those people who absolutely has to read every word on a subject, if theres a sign, you bet I’m reading it! As you walk through the forest, there are little signs telling you what tree species is what, where certain animals make their homes, and some history as to how Native Americans survived off the forest years ago.
Here’s an image of a Strangler Fig, the sign pictured above. Pretty crazy right?
And again, you can spot a variety of bird species, alligators, snakes, otters, black bears, and Florida panthers if you’re lucky. We happened to see a baby alligator basking on a floating log, lots of vultures, and a Black Racer snake!
I hope you enjoyed reading about our little forest adventure! Till next time!
p.s.- Yes, it was a million degrees outside and humid as hell. Yes I am still wearing pants, because Zika.