Sunday, August 28, 2016

Our Everglades Loop-Road Adventure

Florida everglades loop road

The Loop-Road is a Scenic 24-mile drive down a remote dirt road through three counties (Collier, Monroe and Miami-Dade) in the Florida Everglades.  Located just off the Tamiami Trail in the Big Cypress National Preserve (which is a National Park).  It takes about 2 hours.

everglades national park service
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Nadia and I started out early in the morning on a Saturday in late May to check out this Scenic-Loop Road that I had been reading about.  We loaded up on sunscreen and bug spray.  I also made sure we had plenty of water and sandwiches for lunch.  

I was really taking a chance by heading out into the Everglades at this time of year, because it is the wet season, but we have been in a drought and being that it was May and not technically summer yet, I thought, "Let's give it a try."

everglades national park big cypress

Nadia was actually excited about this trip too!  I thought we would first go to the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk, which is located at the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park.  We arrived around 8:30 in the morning, but I did not see a parking lot and each place I was going to park was filled with a lot of Black Vultures.  I did not want to just leave my car anywhere, so I thought we would just come back when other people were there too.  After talking to a ranger, he said you just park by the side of the road.  (that will have to be another trip).

We then headed over to the Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center.  They have nice restrooms there.  The park rangers were very helpful there and said that we could drive the loop-road.  They gave us directions. There are no signs and it is a dirt road right beside the former Monroe Station.  I say former because it burnt to the ground recently.  The Monroe Station was an outpost that was built in the 1920s.  Pretty sad that it is now gone.  I wish we would have gotten a good picture of it when we visited.

So, if you decide to visit, please visit the Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center.  Check out the exhibits on display and talk with a Ranger first, to make sure the road is not under water and that it is safe to travel on that day.  They are very helpful and will answer all your questions.

everglades loop road in big cypress national park

Like I had said earlier, we were in a drought, so we were able to drive on this road; and because we were in a drought, there was not much wildlife to see on the day we went.  We did get to see a few alligators, some turtles and some vultures, but not many other kinds of birds.  Also, there were many bugs.  Nadia did not want to get out of the car.  I braved the bugs to get pictures, but I'll tell you what, I saw some flies that I had never seen before, nor ever want to see again!  Also, I can tell you that the yellow grasshoppers are still alive.  I have not seen one in ages and they were just constantly crossing the road here. BUT......

everglades loop road views

Ok, so there were bugs and not much wildlife during our visit, but I have to tell you, this road was scenic.  I saw landscapes that I did not know were located in the everglades.  It was pretty to me and guess what? Nadia finally got out of the car at times too. We can't wait to go back in the winter to see more wildlife.

In the below photo, there are the gators; and whole bunch at that!

alligators on the loop road in everglades national park

Toward the end of the drive the dirt road turns into a regular road for a few miles.  At the end you head back out to the Tamiami Trail.  If you turn right, you will head towards Shark Valley (you can read my blog posts on Shark Valley here.); or if you turn left you will head towards the Big Cypress Oasis Visitor Center.  We headed left towards the visitor center.  I wanted to check it out.

As we were driving we passed by Clyde Butcher's Big Cypress Gallery on the left hand side.

alligators at oasis visitor center

The Oasis Visitor Center was nice.  They have a gift shop and restrooms.  There was also a nice boardwalk that overlooked some water with a lot of big alligators in it.  The National Park staff was very friendly and helpful here as well.

Clive butcher big cypress galler everglades florida

It was time to start heading home, but not without stopping in that Clyde Butcher Gallery.  It was nice to look at all the photographs on display.  Clyde Butcher is famous for his black and white photography of nature landscapes.  He also has swamp walk tours available.  In the back of the gallery is a short and nice little nature trail.  There is a gift shop available in the gallery too.

It was way too hot after we were done to try to go back and park near the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk.  So we are saving that for the winter months.

Things to remember:
  • Use Sunscreen
  • Use Bug spray
  • Talk to a Ranger before heading out on the Loop-Road
  • Have a full tank of gas
  • Have a map and guide
  • Be aware of your surroundings and use safety
  • Watch for snakes and other wildlife
  • Do Not travel the Tamiami Trail at Night or any part of the Everglades.
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks
  • Have Fun
Also, be advised, in order to travel this road, you need to be fine with your car getting dirty.  You can always wash it later.  Our car was covered in white dust when we were done so we got a car wash the next time we filled up for gas.

Scenic - Loop Road - Information Guide
Big Cypress National Preserve - Park Website
Clive Butcher's Big Cypress Gallery