Sunday, April 1, 2012
March 14, 2012 Big Cypress National Preserve
I landed at Fort Lauderdale Airport and drove out to Big Cypress National Preserve on I-75, better known as Alligator Alley. I stopped at a roadside rest stop to checkout the "river of grass". As soon as I stepped out of the car, these birds, I think they are some kind of herons, took off out of the grass. Great way to start my day in the swamps of south Florida.
Big Cypress is surrounded by the Everglades so I wasn't sure where I was at times, but where ever I was...it was amazing to me. Birds were everywhere and the different types of plants and trees changed constantly.
Most of the water here runs through man made canals, at least along the roads as far I could tell.
These turkey vultures are everywhere. This group just gave me dirty looks when I stopped along State Road 29 to take some pictures.
Now here's a sign you don't see very often.
After a stop at the Big Cypress Swamp Visitor Center, I decided to drive along a series of gravel roads known as the Turner River Road Scenic Loop. When I asked the park ranger about hiking, she said there weren't any trails. After telling me that I should stay in my car for safety reasons, she must have noticed the look on my face because as I walked away she yelled "Don't get close to the alligators, they can move faster than you!" The picture above is my first attempt to hike along Birdon Road. There wasn't much of a path.
Now a kayak would be more useful here, except for those pesky alligators.
There are private homes in Big Cypress. Not sure if these people were home but being a northerner I have preconceived notions about people that live in swamps...so I didn't knock to see if they were home.
Just for the record, I didn't know shit about this area before I got here. But I always support the associations that run the bookstores at the National Park Visitor Centers. So I learned a few things from the guide books I just bought. This picture of an area of hardwood trees, known as a hammock, is possible because the ground is a foot higher than the swamp which means that trees can grow there. This type of stuff is amazing to me, so I stopped to investigate and take pictures.
While walking along the road to stretch my legs, I saw a couple of deer. Since there are panthers in the area, I got all excited that they were running from a panther. So I waited...no panther. Disappointed!!! But wait...
...on my way back to the car, my first alligator...very excited now...
...I followed him or her for about 15 minutes as this non gender specific gator quietly glided along the canal. It was so cool to see an alligator in the wild...what I didn't know at this time...was that over the next three hours I would see about 50 more alligators...and each time I was still thrilled but you never forget your first time.
The scenery changed constantly as I continued on the scenic loop. These shots were taken on Upper Wagonwheel Road.
This double breasted cormorant was sunning himself on a beautiful spring day, it was about 80 degrees which would have made everyone back home jealous except Chicago had the same temperature. When this double breasted human tried to join in, the cormorant flew away.
These pictures were taken along Turner River Road, I was in and out of my now extremely dirty rental car numerous times over the next 90 minutes. I thoroughly enjoyed everything about this park.
Three gators in one picture, they were everywhere along the canals.
Possibly a Great Egret
Now, what did that park ranger tell me? This gator was on the shore along the road.
There is definitely something special about watching them glide across the water.
This Great Egret decided to join me as I hiked along the gravel road.
I ended my day at the Kirby Storter Roadside Park. There is a boardwalk that takes you from the open grassland through a hardwood hammock and ends in a swamp. A great little hike with incredible opportunities to see the various areas of Big Cypress in a short distance.
An "air plant" that grows on the cypress trees.
The parks namesake trees.
A White Ibis
I am pretty sure this is a turkey vulture.
I was playing with reflection shots in the swamp. For some reason this self portrait was my favorite, which surprised me because I usually hate pictures of me...maybe it's the clouds.
I saw several baby alligators in this swamp.
I was impressed by the variety of plants and trees that grow here that I'd never seen anywhere else.
Finally, I must have seen 5 or 6 turtles today but they are so skittish, I couldn't get any pictures. These two jumped into the water right after I took this picture. A wonderful day for me at Big Cypress...now back to Miami to see my Aunt Nora and cousin Karen.