Big Cypress National Preserve protects a landscape of dramatic proportions, more than 1,125 square miles undeniably rich in botanical beauty from the broadest expanses of prairie to the tiniest spout of a whisk fern in the crook of a wizened, ancient bonsai-like cypress.
The Big Cypress Swamp encompasses a series of shallow linear cypress strands stretching north to south, with names like Robert’s Strand and Skillet Strand, as part of a large mosaic of tropical hammocks, marl prairies, pine rocklands, pine flatwoods, and the mangrove fringe.
Protecting the heart of the Big Cypress Swamp, Big Cypress National Preserve was established in 1974 to prevent further incursions of development into this sensitive rain-fed ecosystem.
Exploring its lush subtropical landscapes means wading through crystal-clear swamps or paddling its channelized rivers.
Bisected by the Tamiami Trail (US 41) and Alligator Alley (I-75), the preserve offers numerous opportunities to explore, either on foot or by kayak. The southern terminus of the Florida Trail starts at the Oasis Ranger Station, plunging backpackers into several days of wading through swamps up to hip-deep at times.
Resources for exploring the area
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Destinations we’ve written about inside Big Cypress National Preserve
About the Preserve
Big Cypress Swamp Visitor Center, 33000 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee. Phone: 239-695-4758
Oasis Visitor Center, 52105 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee. Phone: 239-695-1201
Fees and Permits
Most access is free. Camping fees charged. OHV permits required. Backcountry camping (free) permits required; sign in at kiosks or check in at a ranger station prior to your trip.
Big Cypress Backcountry Access
By December 15, all public comments are due on the new Big Cypress Backcountry Access Plan. Here’s our analysis of it and our opinions, along with a discussion of backcountry and wilderness in Florida.
Celebrate National Park Week
April 21 kicks off a week-long nationwide celebration of America’s National Parks, starting with fee-free admission on Saturday April 21. Get outdoors and explore Florida’s National Parks, your public lands!
Crossing Big Cypress
It’s Florida’s roughest, wettest, weirdest backpacking trip, best tackled with friends. Along this 30 mile stretch of the Florida Trail in the heart of Big Cypress National Preserve, immersing in the swamp is the point of the hike. Sandra tackled it as the final stretch of her multi-year 1,110-mile section hike of the Florida Trail, end-to-end.
Botanically rich hikes along the Florida Trail
With more than 1,400 miles of hiking statewide, the Florida Trail provides a gateway to grand landscapes for botanical beauty. Here are our top suggestions for fascinating botanical destinations along the Florida Trail.
Nearby Preserves in the Big Cypress Ecosystem
Our Big Cypress photos on Flickr
NEARBY: Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, Everglades City, Everglades National Park, Immokalee, Fort Lauderdale, Naples, Miami | PART OF: South Florida