Telegraph Creek and Bob Janes are two of the largest preserves managed by Lee County, together protecting over 7,600 acres of the Caloosahatchee River watershed.
A system of trails that are geared towards equestrian use span huge swaths of these properties.
The best way to explore them on foot is on a pair of loops near the southern edge where the two preserves meet.
Owing to the large size of continuous conservation land, the natural habitats contained within are home to many imperiled species.
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Length: 4 mile loop
Trailhead: 26.72886, -81.68893
Address: 16451 North River Road, Alva
Land manager: Lee County
Open sunrise to sunset. No pets allowed.
Exit Interstate 75 at Bayshore Rd in North Fort Myers. Head east on Bayshore Rd for for 3.2 miles to SR 31 N. Turn left, continuing for 1.3 miles before turning right at SR 78. In 4.9 miles, the entrance to the preserve is on the left side of the road.
Starting at the Telegraph Creek Preserve sign, head north, bordered by flatwoods that are far from a natural state.
Using a strip of land between private property, the trail follows a grassy road to access the farther reaches of the preserve.
Reaching 0.3 mile, the trail turns east while tracing along the edges of scrubby habitats.
Myrtle oak, tarflower, and coastalplain staggerbush sprout from white sandy soils alongside goldenasters with silvery leaves and little yellow flowers.
Staying to the right where the loop starts at 0.6 mile, the Green Trail continues 0.4 mile to an intersection with the Bob Janes Loop.
Tufts of wiregrass intermix with St. John’s wort where the trail follows a fence line before it cuts through scrubby flatwoods covered in a sea of palmettos.
Unique wildflowers thrive in this xeric, fire dependent natural community, including the endemic Florida milkweed.
At 1.5 miles, the trail passes through a cattle gate to the adjacent Bob Janes Preserve.
Passing an information kiosk for the preserve, the Purple Trail skirts along the edge of an improved pasture for a half mile before curving towards Telegraph Creek.
Approaching the creek floodplain, shade becomes more abundant as a canopy of oaks rise above the trail.
Heavy oak branches arch overhead, nearly completely covered in air plants, resurrection ferns and orchids.
Giant airplants nestle high in the trees, sporting large stalks of crimson flowers while velvet-leaved wild coffee takes root on the shady forest floor.
Paralleling the waterway for a quarter mile, Telegraph Creek comes into view through thick vegetation along the steep banks.
Unseen aquatic wildlife swirls the surface of the creek’s slow moving murky waters as alligators hide along the edge, revealing only long profiles of their heads.
As the Bob Janes Loop concludes at 2.4 miles, continue following purple blazes for a half mile through Telegraph Creek Preserve to the Green Trail.
Take an immediate right to explore the western half of the loop. Winding alongside the shaded creek and a small tributary for a half mile, the Green Loop ends at 3.5 miles.
From this point, retrace the access road for a half mile to reach the trailhead, concluding a 4 mile hike.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.