Tucked right up against the Midpoint Memorial Bridge with a boardwalk through the mangroves along the Caloosahatchee River, Four Mile Cove Eco Preserve is a great birding spot.
It is the second largest preserve in Cape Coral, spanning 365 acres. In addition to its nature trail, it provides a gateway for kayakers to launch an expedition into the puzzle of waterways that snake through the mangroves, and for anglers to cast a line off a generous platform into the river.
Location: Cape Coral
Length: 1.2 mile loop
Trailhead: 26.608683, -81.917483
Address: 2500 SE 24th St, Cape Coral
Restroom: At Visitor Center by the parking area
Land manager: City of Cape Coral
Open 8 AM to dusk. No dogs are permitted. Fishing is allowed off the observation deck on the Caloosahatchee River. No bicycles, food or beverages are permitted on the trail.
Kayak rentals available weekends Nov-May, call 239-574-7395. Kayaks must be portaged 800 feet along the trail. Children under 6 not permitted in rental kayaks.
From US 41 in Fort Myers, drive west on Colonial Blvd across the Midpoint Memorial Bridge to Cape Coral. Stay in the right lane at tollbooth and turn off the Del Prado exit. Make the right and follow the signs for “Four Mile Eco Park.”
Start at the visitor center and turn left to follow the boardwalk into a coastal prairie, a rare find in these parts. There are several benches along the way to make birding a breeze.
Stop at the observation platform with bench at 0.2 mile looking out over the needlerush marsh. After popping out along this marsh, the boardwalk continues down another shaded corridor of saltbush.
Prop roots of red mangroves become obvious as you continue down the path. Tall giant leather ferns poke out of low bitter panicum grass. The boardwalk emerges out onto edge of another salt marsh with needlerush and giant leather ferns.
Coming up to marker 5, the trail turns right and reaches a bench. There’s an overlook on the narrow upper end of Four Mile Cove, feeding a constant flow of water beneath the mangroves. You’ve entered a thick tangle of mangroves: red and black predominate.
In the mangrove tunnel, peer into the overhead limbs to see birds roosting. At the half mile mark, a slender canal passes under the boardwalk. It is reminiscent of the hand-dug Calusa canals of thousands of years ago. A bench sits just beyond.
As the trail continues down a corridor of young saltbush, trees crowd back over and form a bower overhead. There is a transition zone to a limestone ridge, with limestone-loving ferns and wild coffee outcropping along it.
At 0.7 mile, a spur boardwalk turns left out to a pier and platform on the Caloosahatchee. You can see the Thomas Edison Home in the distance across the river, one of the region’s first settlements.
Returning to the trail junction, turn left. The boardwalk ends. Continue on a shell path lined by sand live oak, gumbo limbo, and ficus trees. The trail rounds a marsh on the right, fringed by cattails and duck potato.
Two posts indicate the end of the trail at far end of parking lot, with a kiosk just beyond the posts on left. Completing the walk through the habitat restoration area, you return to the visitor center.
See our slides of Four Mile Cove Eco Preserve
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Winding 1.4 miles through the slough, the broad wheelchair-accessible boardwalk at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers leads you into a dark cypress strand.