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Big Cypress National Preserve

| Roadside Park and Turner River Road | Concho Billy Trail and Other Photos | Clyde Butcher |

Map of Big Cypress National Preserve
Map showing location of Big Cypress National Preserve. Big Cypress Swamp lies to the west of the Everglades and grades slowly into the coastal marshes of southwest Florida. Big Cypress National Preserve, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve all offer access into the mystical cypress swampland of Big Cypress Swamp and perhaps an encounter with some of the swamp’s inhabitants such as snakes, alligators, bobcats, deer, black bears and Florida panthers.
Big Cypress National Preserve is located in South Florida, between Naples and Miami, along the western border of Everglades National Park. Three major highways: I-75 (Alligator Alley), US 41 (Tamiami Trail) and State Road 29, provide access to the preserve.

The "Big" in Big Cypress Swamp refers to the size of the swamp, which consists of more than 2,400 mi2.
In the 1930’s and 1940’s, much of the old-growth cypress tree strands were logged and the trees came close to being wiped out. Land development in the 1960’s began the drainage of the swamp. In 1968, plans for an international airport along the swamp's eastern edge were revealed. The threat to Everglades National Park's watershed encouraged the establishment of The Big Cypress National Preserve in 1974.

The preserve was created to protect the natural system and water resources flowing into Everglades National Park, and to protect the recreational values of the area. As a result, activities not allowed in most national parks such as oil drilling, cattle grazing, privately owned camps, hunting and off-road vehicle use, are permitted.

Swamps are generally wet, wooded areas where standing water of depths from a few inches to a few feet can occur for much of the year. Swamps are often referred to as strands, sloughs, estuaries, bogs, domes, bayheads and bottomlands.
The term "slough" is pronounced slew. Sloughs contain areas of slightly deeper water and a slow current. They can be thought of as the "broad, shallow rivers of the Everglades".
Today the preserve totals more than 700,000 acres, about 2/3 of which are covered with cypress. In addition to cypress swamp, the preserve also contains freshwater marsh, dry and wet prairie, hardwood hammocks, pineland and estuarine mangrove forests. Small variations in elevation (in some cases, only inches), water salinity, soil type and fire frequency dictate which landscape community will prevail.

For more information, please visit the Big Cypress National Preserve website.

Visit with some alligators at the H.P. Williams Roadside Park, or see the plants and animals along Turner River Road.

A photo gallery is available for this page. [Photos taken April, 2000]

H.P. Williams Roadside Park

photo of an alligator hanging out by the water
[larger image]
H.P. Williams Roadside Park is located at the intersection of US 41 (Tamiami Trail) and Hwy 839 (Turner River Road). This small park consists of picnic tables along a canal active with fish and alligators.

(right) An alligator basking on a canal bank near H. P. Williams Roadside Park.

Alligators are commonly seen in freshwater areas throughout Florida and throughout the Everglades. The alligator is Florida's official state reptile.

Alligators have been around since the age of dinosaurs. They can grow up to 20 feet long and can reach weights of more than half a ton. Wild alligators have a natural fear of people, however, when people feed them gators associate humans with food and lose their fear. It is very important not to feed or approach alligators.

South Florida, along the southern shores of Everglades National Park, is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles coexist.

How do you identify an alligator from a crocodile?
Alligators have a broad and rounded snout. Crocodiles have a narrow pointed snout and its fourth tooth on the lower jaw is visible when its mouth is closed. Alligators don't have a protruding fourth tooth and when an alligators mouth is closed, usually only the upper teeth show.
Drawing of an alligator and a crocodile
(image courtesy of Florida Power and Light Co.)

No swimming allowed here!
photo of an alligator swimming
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photo of an alligator catching some rays
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(top) An alligator swimming in a canal near H. P. Williams Roadside Park. Only the alligator's head and part of its back are visible above the water when an alligator swims at the surface. This makes it easier for an alligator to approach its prey undetected. Foods an alligator may eat include fish, turtles, mammals, birds, dead animals and other alligators.

(bottom) Alligators basking on a canal bank near H. P. Williams Roadside Park. Alligators are cold-blooded, therefore their body temperatures adjust to surrounding temperatures

Turner River Road

Turner River Road is located north, off of the US 41 (Tamiami Trail). A drive along this dirt road takes you through mostly open prairie interspersed with slash pine and along canals frequented by birds and alligators.

Air Plants
All along Turner River Road, high in the treetops, cardinal wild pine (Tillandsia fasciculata) bromeliads were in bloom. This epiphyte ("air plant") is self-sufficient and uses other plants only for support. Epiphytes receive their nourishment from falling organic debris and rainfall trapped by the plant. photo of a bromeliad
[larger image]

Pickerelweed
photo of a pickerelweed
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Close-up of a pickerelweed flower spike. The violet-blue flower spikes of this aquatic is generally between 2 and 6-inches long.

Pickerelweed commonly grows in calm waters throughout Florida and generally blooms in all but the winter months.

photo of a duck potato
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Mashed (Duck) Potatoes?
(right) Duck potato (Sagittaria falcata) growing in canal waters along Turner River Road (839). White duck potato flowers grow on stalks above the plants elliptical leaves. Leaves are typically 4 inches wide and up to 2 feet long.

(left) Close-up of duck potato. The 3-petaled white flowers of this native aquatic are usually 1 to 1.5-inches across. Duck potato commonly grows in marshes, swamps and calm waters throughout Florida and generally blooms in all but the fall months.

close-up photo of a duck potato
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Panoramic of Big Cypress NP
panoramic photo of Big Cypress
Looking northwest from Turner River Road across open prairie interspersed with slash pine. [larger image]

Pig frogs

How did the pig frog get its name?



Below, a pig frog (Rana grylio) floats in the hydrilla-filled waters of a canal. While we walked along Turner River Road, just before the Concho Billy Trail, we first heard and then saw this pig frog.

photo of a pig frog
[larger image]
Pig frogs can grow to over 5-inches long and are almost always found in or near water. A pig frog's gender can be determined by the size of its circular tympanic membrane (outer ear). The tympanic membrane will usually be larger than the eye in males and usually the same size or smaller than the eye in females. Pig frogs look similar to bull frogs. To distinguish between the two, look for the pig frog's hind-feet webbing that extends almost to the tip of its toes.

Hydrilla is a submersed exotic plant that can either root or drift in water. This non-native can commonly be found in streams, ponds, lakes and canals throughout Florida.



Related SOFIA Information

Below we have listed science projects and publications for studies that are being conducted, or have been conducted, in the area of Big Cypress National Preserve. Follow these links to read about each project and to see project-related publications and data.

Science Projects:

Related Publications:

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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Center for Coastal Geology
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Last updated: January 15, 2013 @ 12:44 PM(TJE)