Fakahatchee Strand Preserve is the largest of Florida’s State Parks. It’s surrounded by other public lands sites created to preserve and protect the delicate swamp and everglades that make up the bulk of south Florida, including: Collier-Seminole State Park, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Big Cypress National Preserve, and Everglades National Park. Established in 1974, it comprises approximately 85,000 acres, and is administered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The Fakahatchee hosts a variety of habitats and ecosystems. Primarily a ‘linear swamp forest,’ it’s the only place in the world where bald cypress and royal palm can be found in the same forest. Home to an incredible variety of flora and fauna, Fakahatchee is considered the orchid and bromeliad capital of North America, with 44 and 14 species of each, respectively. A designated stop on the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail and part of the Audubon Society’s Big Cypress Swamp Watershed Important Bird Area, it’s also home to Florida panthers, manatee, Everglades mink, and loggerhead turtles.
Despite minimal development in this primarily wilderness area, a wide variety of recreational and other activities are available, including: bicycling, hiking, fishing, canoeing & kayaking, and guided adventures with park staff. I spent time here in May 2017, exploring Janes Scenic Drive, looking for wildlife, and watching an amazing sunset with local guides and area experts Swamp Ape and El Prez.
The park is open daily from 8am to sunset, and entry is free. Rates for guided adventures and tours vary. Check the Park website or visit the office north of Everglades City, FL, for the most current information regarding events & fees, and also closures and alerts.
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