2014-11-23 Goodbye to the Everglades, and a visit to Big Cypress National Refuge

Leaving Everglades National Park, we stopped at the Royal Palm Visitor Center and walked the short but amazing Anhinga Trail. We stopped in here years ago when passing through on a trip to Key West - and I remain convinced...if you have time for nothing more than a quick stop in the everglades, this is the place to stop!  It is just 4 miles after the entrance to Everglades National Park and when it comes to seeing wildlife, this path is rich, plus you get a good taste of a sawgrass marsh and the vast "river of grass". Birds, fish, turtles, and many many alligators can be seen on this short, very easy, paved and boardwalk path.

The Anhinga bird seems plentiful in south Florida

big softshell turtle

That's just a little guy...sometimes you can spot a dozen gators or more at once in this spot

Great Blue Heron

Florida Gar

After the brief stop at Royal Palm, we hopped on the Tamiami Trail across south Florida from Miami on the east to Naples on the west, cutting through the everglades and Big Cypress National Refuge. The rangers at Big Cypress had told us we could drop our rig in their parking lot to drive the Loop Road. This was quick way to see a bit of the preserve without adding a lot of miles to our trip. Turns out, the loop road was quite easy and could have been driven with the RV in tow. The scenery is similar to what you are already seeing on the highway, but the small Loop Road allows you to take your time, pull over and admire the serenity and beauty of the cypress swamp.
The Florida National Scenic Trail actually has its southern terminus here in the preserve - the southern most 28 miles goes through pinelands, hardwood hammocks, and cypress swamp (sometimes waist deep). I think it would really be fun to do the 6-mile stretch between the Tamiami Trail and Loop Road, but you need to have the right gear - this is not for the casual hiker! Plus we were heading to our overnight spot closer to Fort Myers to explore Sanibel area the next day, so no time for hiking.
This was a "small world" day. Not only did we run into a friend from Jolly Roger in the morning as we were leaving Flamingo campground in the everglades; now after our scenic drive through Big Cypress, we returned to the visitor center to hook up the rig and found a note from another Jolly Roger friend who had been passing by and saw our rig there.

The gators are everywhere along Tamiami Trail

Cypress swamps are magical in their stillness

The water is so clear and lovely...care to sit on the edge and dangle our feet?

below, a mirror - and above, cypress filled with bromeliads

Pather Crossing signs line the highway; many are struck and killed each year

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