The Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park:
The Big Cypress Swamp of southwest Florida is basically a flat, discount gently sloping limestone plain. During the rainy season (June through September), water flows slowly southward over this plain into the mangrove swamps bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Water also flows below ground through the porous underlying limestone. In places, limestone has dissolved, forming elongated sloughs or channels which have accumulated deep organic soils. These channels or sloughs have been colonized by cypress and other trees, creating swamp forests that stand out on the horizon in contrast to the open prairies and pine-lands that occupy the sterile veneer of marl soil which is on top of the remaining limestone. The local term for these linear swamps is “strand.”
PLANT & ANIMAL LIFE
Its forest of mixed bald-cypresses, royal palms and abundant epiphytic plants is unique. The Fakahatchee Strand State Park is approximately 20 miles long and three to five miles wide. The flow of water through the Fakahatchee Strand is essential to its continued health and that of the estuaries to the south of it.
The natural values of the Fakahatchee Strand State Park may be greater than those of any area of comparable size in the state of Florida. It contains the largest stand of native royal palms and largest concentration and variety of orchids in North America, as well as other species of plants that are extremely rare. The unusual wildlife of the Fakahatchee Strand State Park includes some threatened or endangered species. The Florida panther, wood stork, Florida black bear, mangrove fox squirrel and the Everglades mink have all been documented within the preserve area.
Facilities and activities are limited at the present time. A 2,000-foot long boardwalk at Big Cypress Bend, meandering through the old growth cypress, enables the visitor to experience the beauty of this unusual swamp. From November through February rangers lead a “swamp walk” the third Saturday of the month (weather permitting) beginning at 10 a.m. The swamp walks are limited to 15 people and reservations are required.
For more information:
Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve
P.O. Box 548 Copeland, FL 33926
or call (941) 695-4593