Location: Copeland, Florida
Webpage: Florida State Park
General Description: Established in 1974, the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve is a linear swamp forest approximately twenty miles long and five miles wide extending from north to south. Beneath a canopy of bald cypress trees flows a slow moving, shallow river or slough that is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. It hosts habitats ranging from the wet swamp and prairie to drier tropical hammocks and pine rock islands. Its groves of royal palm are the largest in the state and is the only place in the world where royal palm and bald cypress dominate the forest canopy. It is the bromeliad and orchid capital of the world with 14 native bromeliad and 44 native orchids. In 1913 the property was purchased for the purpose of large scale logging of the bald cypress trees and extended until the 1950s. Although proposed to become a national monument in 1948, it was purchased by a real estate company to create 1.25 acre lots. This was never followed through and ultimately was given to the state.
1) Due to the logging operations there are a number of “trams” crisscrossing the property. A couple of these were used to create the James Scenic Drive, an 11 mile unpaved drive that bisects the property from east to west, ending at the Picayune Strand State Forest. Along the road some of the trams have been maintained as hiking trails that extend for miles into the Preserve. We traveled this entire road to the end with our F350 truck, which made the trip with no problems, although after the first few miles the road got very rough with many holes that would be full of water during the summer. There were volunteers clearing the side of the road in one location and you could see their efforts to maintain the road access. Even though we were getting very concerned about a place to turn around until we reached the Picayune Strand State Forest, where there is a small picnic area that made this easy.
2) Along US highway 41 there is a 2,000 foot boardwalk that leads into the Preserve. We did not take advantage of this boardwalk, taking the scenic drive instead, so I cannot comment on it.