EvergladesFlorida’s most iconic landscape is comprised of a massive watershed that stretches over 100 miles from Lake Okeechobee to the Southern tip of the peninsula. During the wet season, the massive lake discharges excess water creating a massive slow-moving river that flows toward the sea. From this river a subtropical ecosystem of woodlands, marshes, grasslands, and estuaries emerges.

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve

Cypress TreeSetting out from Naples along the Tamiami Trail (Highway 41) we first encounter the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk. Tucked away in a corner of the preserve, the boardwalk offers an intimate glimpse into nature and history. Here stand the few remaining virgin cypress groves in Florida. They are the remnants of an ancient ecosystem that was mostly eradicated by past logging operations. Today, the cypress trees are protected along with the other plant and animal species that call the preserve “home”.

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Fakahatchee Strand PreserveEverglades City

2013-11-17 13.47.56 copyWe continue onward, approaching Everglades City. This little town in the middle of nowhere evokes memories of “Old Florida” before the days of air conditioning and retirees. The residents still retain memories of the town’s… colorful past. A couple of decades ago, Everglades City supported a thriving drug trade in which almost every local family was involved. Dealers delivered bales of marijuana or “square grouper” by plane and by sea, their covert actions sheltered by the expanse of swamp.Today, Everglades City caters mostly to tourists.

Speedy's Airboat Tours

Big Cypress National Preserve

2013-11-17 15.46.03 copyAs the day wears on, we turn onto an unassuming dusty dirt road. The Loop, as County Road 94 is called, leads to nowhere; it is a relic of big dreams and ruined ambition. Captian Jaudon, head of the Chevelier Company, had invested in land and agreed to fund construction of the Tamiami Trail on the condition that it be rerouted. By doing so he hoped to found “The Next Miami.” However the town never materialized and the company went bankrupt, leaving only a 24 mile long road in the wilderness behind.  

Big Cypress National Preserve

 

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