The Wildlife of Big Cypress National Preserve

 The Wildlife of Big Cypress National Preserve

Big Cypress National Preserve has some of the most diverse plants and wildlife in the world.

One of the places that has a special hold on me is the Everglades area of Florida. It's a wild, huge place filled with birds and wildlife as diverse as the flooded cypress and sawgrass prairies that make up the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States.

gator1

Every time I'm in south Florida, I budget time for the glades. I've ridden my bicycle along an eight-mile paved loop at Shark Valley, cruising yards past snoozing gators with their huge tooth-filled mouths open to cool off.

There are airboat rides, nature walks where you can actually get wet and wade in the swamp, and fishing not to be believed.

When and What to See

The winter dry season, which lasts from December to April, is the best time for wildlife viewing in the park. Weather conditions are generally pleasant during the winter and standing water levels are low, causing wildlife to congregate at central water locations.

Shark Valley, the Anhinga Trail at Royal Palm, and Eco Pond in the Flamingo area are popular areas for viewing alligators, wading birds, and other wildlife. Boaters have additional access to wildlife viewing opportunities in Florida Bay and along the Gulf Coast.

Big Cypress National Preserve

Big Cypress National Preserve

On one trip, I devoted an afternoon to the Big Cypress National Preserve. It's a 729,000 acre part of the Everglades whose crystal clean freshwater plays a vital role in the health of the entire ecosystem of south Florida.

Jennifer and I drove a 24-mile loop road that runs south and east off Highway 41 at about mile marker 59.

woodstork
Wood stork

It's a dirt and gravel road, well maintained but meant for slow travel. Bounded on both sides by trees, there are frequent drainage ditches and small open spots all along the route.

It's fine for Class B and Class C RVs. Too rough for a Class A. And once you commit, there are limited spots to turn around.

cypress
The water is crystal clear

Amazing Wildlife Viewing

Found here are dozens of species of mammals, birds, and reptiles unique to Florida's climate. It is easy to view and appreciate Florida's largest reptile, the American alligator, living here in its natural environment. They are in almost every water hole, all along the banks, even sunning themselves on the shoulder of the road.

egret
Egret

The birds are something else: Anhingas, egrets, wood storks, and herons are found in plentiful numbers feeding, displaying courtship feathers, and nesting in and among the cypress trees.

gatorcu
I think I like alligators so much because they always seem to me smiling

There's a reason the speed limit is 25 miles an hour. Herons often launch from the trees and fly right across and over the road. Because of their bulk, it takes them some considerable wing power to get to altitude and if we had been traveling faster, we would have hit one several times.

heron
Heron

Occasionally, one can witness river otters, bobcats, black bears, and the endangered Florida panther on the Preserve's back roads and trails. We didn't see any panthers, but Route 41 is peppered with warning signs noting that panthers frequently cross the road.

cypressfersn
Swamp beauty – ferns surrounding a cypress stump

Invasive Wildlife in Everglades National Park

Not all of the animals are native. 

In recent years, snakes from around the world have been turning up in and around Everglades National Park. Burmese pythons, one of the largest snake species on earth, are now known to be breeding in the park and spreading throughout south Florida. 

bigcypress
This python was 16 feet long! Florida Dept. of Wildlife photo

Over 5,000 pythons have been removed from the park and surrounding areas-likely representing only a fraction of the total population. The population of Burmese pythons presently established in the park is the result of accidental and/or intentional releases by pet owners.

These introductions can have devastating consequences on our ecosystem. Burmese pythons have been found to feed on a wide variety of mammals and birds in the Everglades-even the occasional alligator!

gator3
Gators are everywhere

By preying on native wildlife, and competing with other native predators, pythons are seriously impacting the natural order of south Florida's ecological communities. The continued proliferation of Burmese pythons-and the continued introduction of new foreign species-can further threaten many of the endangered plants and animals we're working diligently to protect.

These creatures reach 15-20 feet in length. We didn't see one. Jennifer considers that good. Me, I would have liked to get my own photo instead of the Florida wildlife one used above.

Big Cypress National Preserve Visitors Center

The trip we took on the scenic loop road makes for a delightful afternoon. There's a large visitors center for the Big Cypress National Preserve on US 41 that is well worth seeing.

And there are numerous federal campgrounds right off 41 up and down 41 from Naples to Miami. Most have openings every day.

fish
The water teems with fish

Many campgrounds have amazing access to fishing opportunities and some even provide gear for their campers. If you want to maximize your experience, I recommend hiring a fishing guide. These guides know the complex everglades and variety of fish like the back of their hands.

We RVers may wander far and wide but it’s true for most of us that we end up with some favorite “Go-To” places – places that draw us back again and again.

Florida is one of those places for us. And we know it is for many RVers looking to get away and explore during the winter. 

That's why we've created three guides, covering Florida's Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast, and the Keys. 

Each of these guides is a seven-day guided exploration of one of the coasts. And each stop is a curated view of the best things that we’ve enjoyed on this trip and want you to experience.

All together these guides are over 300 pages of content! 

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The Wildlife of Big Cypress National Preserve

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

96 Comments

  • yup we were just there … but didn’t see one of those!

  • OMG!!!!!!! Thats just crazy!!!!!!!:o

  • Those snakes are destroying the everglades

  • Wtf!! Thats awesome!!!

  • wow thats is a big one

  • I hope u guys killed that big thing. Those snakes eat cats, dogs and little kids. Nasty.

  • I HATE SNAKES…

  • No Thank you = nasty

  • Thanks for this article, Mike. We enjoyed the loop road earlier this year. We saw LOTS of ‘gators, birds and fish. It is an amazing area. We hope to camp in one of the campgrounds you mention next season. Continued safe travels!

  • …no camping anywhere near

  • Big one

  • Wow

  • Still thinking of going to Florida ?

  • A stick of dynomite just to make sure……

  • OMG !!

  • Those snakes don’t have a natural predators in Everglades, destroyed everything…..very sad 🙁

  • Shoot it

  • Yikes!

  • I think I would want a larger motor home for that trip

  • These people are nuts

  • No everglades for me

  • Yuk

  • You. Can. Keep. It!!

  • After hurricane Andrew in south Florida shatter for exotic animals was destroyed some of those snakes find new home in Everglades, since they have no natural predators there is thousands of them in Everglades now. Once a year there is open hunt on them hopefully one day Everglades will be clean again.

  • I get that many of them need to be destroyed but surely some could go to zoos around the country?

  • I will never go to Everglades now!!!

  • No way hate them things

  • Oh no!! Scaey!!

  • great article, we winter in Florida and have hiked, biked, and kayaked the area. Last year we did a swamp buggy ride though the Panther preserve, no spottings but saw fresh prints.

  • Awesome

  • way to close, while kayaking the Turner River I was inching forward to photograph a water lily, and I looked up and I was eyeball to eyeball with the biggest gator I’ve ever seen, he was hissing at me as I was about 6 ft from him, not quite in focus as I was back peddling as fast as I could.

    • dang!

    • You were LUCKY that gator decided to warn you instead of attacking

    • I bet it cured your constipation!

    • pretty much so, Dean.

    • he looks mad

    • neither of us were very happy

    • that looks like an old one too call the Swamp People on History

    • omg

    • Yikes!!!

  • Wow!

  • all because idiots get them as Babies, and when they get to be 6 ft. long , they can’t handle them so they DUMP them

  • not sure i wanna go to florida !!!!!!

  • I hope it’s dead

  • We spent three wonderful days there in late January. Previously, we had experienced the western edge via boat. Anchored off the Shark River, come sundown, hundreds, maybe thousands of white Ibis flew overhead to their nesting areas. This time, we enjoyed watching as egret flew low, just above the canal along Hwy 41; flocks of Rosette Spoonbill shuffling through shallow waters in search of food and the amazing sight of an alligator tossing and slamming a smaller ‘gator down into the water. Our Roadtrek was perfect for the road down to Flamingo with plenty of room to pull over and take in the views.

  • ha ha that’s not a snake, now THIS is a snake

  • I had another encounter on that kayak trip, I heard a gator coming out of the glades, I looked over and he and I were eye to eye, 3 ft from me, he was as startled as I was, he dove under my kayak and was gone. Maybe an 8 footer, not anything like the one in the photo. Both had my heart pounding

  • NO Thanks!!! Ill pass

  • Wow!!

  • I need a new pair a boots, n a coat. That snake will do just fine! 🙂

  • You guys should kill that snake before swallowing….

  • No way , don’t wanna go there…

  • Happy I’m not running Florida. !!!!

  • Well no more Everglades for me!!!

  • Can I borrow it for a week…got a big rat problem in my house 😉

  • Yikes!!! I’ll stay in northern nevada. !!!

  • Sweetie, were never going to the Everglades!

  • SON OF @ B…. !!!

  • I have always love to trave;

  • travel and see new things; I aint going there.

  • Ewwwwwwwww!!!!!!!

  • OMG

  • That snake looks well fed!

  • Carmary Rodriguez-Breuss

  • Angela Kelly

  • Is there any way to return these creatures to the Amazon?

  • Hate snakes.

  • Like ewwhh…………

  • Is that a big passed snake? Oh hell to da naw! No Florida for me…

  • Pair of shoes, hang bag and dinner lol

  • It won’t fit in the RT!

  • No, Thank you…NO!!

  • I hate snakes!

  • gosh

  • Wow!

  • you just need to stay safe and be on your toes and look where you are going down there, I like Florida

  • my post disappreared

  • Kill it

  • Used to live near there…amazing place

  • How many bullets did you put thru that snake?

  • I am staying at the Long Pine Campground at the eastern entrance to the Everglades and I love it! There are at least 3 other Roadtreks in the campground right now. There is plenty to do and lots to see in the Everglades. I’ve never run into one of those snakes yet! Love this place!!

  • YUCK!

  • That’s a big ass snake.

  • No Way!!!!!

  • Wenn man die Schlange sieht,glaubt man kaum daß es sie wirklich gibt

  • How do you like this one Bruce N Mary Nedeau?

  • I’ll pass that.

  • BIG ASS SNAKE

  • No way.

  • Not a native species

  • OH – MY – GOD Donna Lehman-Levesque!

  • What the hell are they feeding those snakes

  • Hi Jennifer and Mike, weare also in southern Florida and love to visit the Everglades but we could not go this year ,we did explore those areas 2 years ago with a guide it was great ,we are going on a cruise to panama and Costa Rica this week , have been doing exercises in the pool here Joe and Ginny Farrug

  • Brave people i would Not Not i say even touch it!!

  • Great story but I am scared of snakes and alligators.

  • and they seriously have this in their arms!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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