Saturday, February 21, 2009

Big Cypress Swamp Walk

Ya know how I'm always sayin' that there are some amazing things to do in Florida? And that you just gotta' go out there and do them?

Well - we did an amazing thing today with my sons Cub Scout pack and a couple girls from my Brownie Girl Scout Troop...we went on a walk through the cypress swamp at Big Cypress National Preserve.

The Webelos from Pack 424: Joseph, Liam, Joshua, Oscar, Chequevera, and Nicolas.

The Brownies from Troop 10224: Jessica and Savannah

We started our trip by seeing the gators in the canals that surround the Oasis Visitor Center at Big Cypress, and then watched a movie in the center about the Everglades. We saw animals, shells, and bones of animals that are native to Big Cypress. Then our guide, a Park Ranger named Jason, gave us a lesson on the importance of the Everglades and of the National Parks program before he led us on our walk. I was rear guard for the walk, so most of my pictures are of people's backs...but hopefully you get an idea of how totally cool this walk was.

The winter months are the perfect time to plan a trip like this, as the mosquito population is WAY down (thank goodness), and the lack of rainfall makes the swamp a little more accessible. In the summer months, Big Cypress gets an average of 60 inches a rain A YEAR...and the water would easily be chest high in places...which means it would be over the heads of some of our Scouts. But in February, we were rarely more than knee deep...the highest we got was up to our waists.

Primary president Michelle Rosales and Webelos Den Leader Ingemar Lopez were cheerily up to the muddy challenge of exploring a swamp.

Park Ranger Jason was so AWESOME with the kids and let us explore and ask lots of questions (and he was really cute, too!!).

The kids all started off REALLY scared to go on the walk...worried about gators and water moccasins and leeches and snapping turtles...but after only a few short minutes, they were excited and amazed (thanks again, Park Ranger Jason).

The boys are all having a great time getting wet and muddy and exploring nature.
He took us through the river grass prairie, which was really just a whole lot of ankle deep sticky black mud that sucked the shoes off the kids,

The boys traverse the dry prairie river...trying to be careful where they step...

Like, foot in ankle deep mud/glue...

and then into the cypress swamp. It was amazing to be walking through the water, which was amazingly crystal clear until our sloshing about churned it up, and be surrounded by these beautiful cypress trees that were covered with spiky air plants and dripping with Spanish Moss and the occasional orchid.

Jessica and Joseph wade through the swamp on their way to the gator hole...check out all the air plants, ferns, and Spanish Moss that grows symbiotically with the cypress trees!!

Spring is just starting to show in the swamp, and the cypress are growing a new coat of bright green spiky needle-leaves, and the wildflowers are just starting to pop up and bloom...low lavender carnivorous plants and single tall yellow blooms that look like over-sized sunny Bachelor Buttons standing out boldly against the grey barks of the cypress.

Park Ranger Jason took us to a gator hole where we saw a big 'ol gator just before he hid under water, and watched a smaller gator (about 3 feet) climb up on a log to sun himself. The wallow was surrounded by egrets and herons, anhingas and vultures...all looking to eat and feed in the gators hole. Park Ranger Jason explained that alligators like to make the deep wallows to live in when the dry season shrinks their hunting territory. The wallows attract fish and birds and other animals who are also looking for deeper water to survive. Park Ranger Jason said the alligator is like a landlord...he'll let everybody come share his wallow with him. But after a while, he decides to collect the rent, and CHOMP!!... You never get to check out.

The kids thought that was hilarious.

Park Ranger Jason points out interesting flora and fauna in the gator wallow. I wanted to get a pic of the gator, but he was so well-camouflaged with the log he was sunning on that it wouldn't show up on my camera (my zoom isn't powerful enough!!)

I know that this is a trip that they will remember for a VERY long time. I certainly will.

Nicolas takes a break from sloshing...not really caring how wet he is, anymore.

You don't need to be a part of a group or Scouts to take advantage of this only-in-Florida opportunity. Big Cypress, like all National Parks, has some GREAT Ranger-led programs. To check out what any National Park or Preserve has to offer, just go to and find the park you're interested in. If you want to learn more about the programs specifically at Big Cypress, visit, or see the list of ranger-led activities at

Have fun, and go explore your matter WHERE you live!!

Even after a hose socks and shoes are shot!

1 comment:

Tiffany said...

This looks like an amazing hike!! You guys weren't messing around!