Big Cypress National Preserve

Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve is a wetland paradise encompassing an impressive 2,500 square miles (6,216 square kilometers) of rich sub-tropical habitat. It’s commonly called a swamp, but this is far from true because the reserve includes a variety of habitats such as sandy islands of pine and mixed hardwood trees, prairies, mangroves, palm trees, and, of course, cypresses. This is an extremely flat landscape, so the best way to get a good view is from the air. To truly experience Big Cypress National Preserve, you need to immerse yourself in its lush greenery and enjoy the details of its rich and unusual plant and animal life.

About a third of Big Cypress is covered by cypress trees, mostly the dwarf pond cypress. However, a few of the giant bald cypresses that once dominated this area still remain. Some are as old as 700 years, with trunks so wide it would take four people to encircle one with outstretched arms. The rainy season begins in May and lasts until the following autumn.

Water plays a central role in the lives of everything here and supports a rich diversity of wildlife. Birds include herons, egrets, wood stork, red cockaded woodpecker, and bald eagle. Alligators patrol the waters, and during the dry season live in waterholes that attract numerous other animals, such as deer and even bear. One of the most endangered animals is the black Florida panther. Only 50 individuals remain in the wild. The best place to see one is in the dense trees on small islands of hardwoods. These mini-forests give the panther dry land, cover, and prey. Big Cypress is a recreational paradise with camping, canoeing, kayaking, and excellent hiking trails in the winter dry season.