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One of the main reasons to come to Marco Island Florida is to see nature in all it's glory. Marco is the western gateway to the Everglades and to the 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
There are two well recognized South West Florida Parks right off the island: Everglades National Park and the Big Cypress National Preserve (aka the Western Everglades). In addition are two national wildlife refuges, one national research reserve, three state parks, one state forest and many Collier county, city and nature preserves to explore.
Nature abounds in Marco. Each year more Collier County land is set aside to expanding our national heritage.
In South Florida, nearly 2.5 million acres of pineland, prairie, tropical hardwoods, mangrove forests, estuaries and coral reefs are preserved for this and future generations. Their scientific, recreational, aesthetic and educational values are limitless.
Everglades National Park is worth multiple visits to visit and explore.
Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, boasts rare and endangered species. It has been designated a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and Wetland of International Importance, significant to all people of the world.
Everglades National Park protects the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi River. The wilderness area is named for Marjory Stoneman Douglas who was instrumental in creating the park, and who coined the phrase "River of Grass."
Everglades National Park Information (305) 242-7700
Everglades 24 Hour Emergency (305) 242-7740
- Swamp land
- Hammocks: The" high and dry" tree islands of the Everglades are called "tropical hardwood hammocks". The park marks a significant edge of the northern limits of many subtropical plants and the southern limits of many temperate plants. Smaller scrubby islands are known as "bayheads" which dot the open prairie.
- Seagrass flats: helps provides food for fish, manatees and sea turtles, habitat for young fish and invertebrates
- Mangrove islands
Flamingo Visitor Center (941) 695-2945
Shark Valley Visitor's Center of the Everglades National Park is about 30 miles west of Miami.
Shark Valley Visitor Center (305) 221-8776
Shark Valley Tram Tours (305) 221-8455
On Hwy. 41 (Tamiami Trail) 30 miles west of the Florida Turnpike exit for S.W. 8th Street.
Shark Valley Visitor Center
The visitor center is open daily 8:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. December through April. Hours for May through November are 9:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Information and educational sales items.
Bobcat Boardwalk - a .4-mile round trip walk starting at the visitor center passes through sawgrass marsh and a bayhead.
Otter Cave Hammock - mile round trip from the visitor center. Enters a tropical hardwood hammock and bayhead communities.
Tram Trail - The 15-mile tram trail is excellent for strolling and wildlife viewing.
Everglades National Park Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City,
3 miles south of Hwy. 41 (Tamiami Trail) on Highway 29. The visitor center is open daily, December - April from 8:00 - 4:30, May - November from 9:00 - 4:30. Information, exhibits, wilderness permits, educational sales items, and picnicking available. A variety of marinas and boat launch facilities are available near the visitor center. (239) 695-3311
Daily 2 different boat tours go into 1) the mangrove estuary and 2) Ten Thousand Islands offering views of a unique environment and its wildlife. Information and tickets available in the lower level of the visitor center, general information is available by calling 239-695-2591.
Everglades National Park Boat Tours (239) 695-2591 Located at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City.
Big Cypress National Preserve
Location: Welcome Center - Big Cypress National Preserve
33100 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, Florida 34141 - U.S. 41 East, close to four miles east of State Road 29. About 30 minutes from Marco Island is the Big Cypress National Preserve. It is located on U.S. 41 at Ochopee FL.
Big Cypress National Preserve was one of the first national preserves within the National Park Service. As a preserve, Big Cypress manages for a broader range of recreational activities, including hunting and Off-road Vehicle access. It was the first national preserve established by the National Park Service. A preserve allows a broader range of pre-existing activities. Hunting, off-road vehicle use and oil drilling are allowed here and not in nearby Everglades National Park.
Total Acres: 729,000
Oasis Visitor Center 52105 Tamimai Trail East, Ochopee, Florida 34141 (239) 695-1201
The visitor center is located along U. S. 41, 50 miles west of Miami and 50 miles east of Naples. Preserve Headquarters is located near Naples and Everglades City, along U. S. 41, 5 miles east of the State Road 29 intersection. The center is open from 9:00 - 4:30, every day but Christmas. The visitor center contains of wildlife exhibits, a book sales area, a place to get information, and an introductory 15 minute film on the Big Cypress Swamp.
1) Welcome Center (under construction Sept 2009)
A nature walk along the one-mile round trip Kirby Storter Boardwalk. Located west of the Oasis Visitor Center along US 41. This elevated boardwalk takes you through prairie, dwarf cypress and into the heart of a cypress stand.
2) Turner River - known for kayaking and canoeing
3) Turner River Road (County 839) - it is a north and south road through Big Cypress National Preserve - Turner River Road and Birdon form a U shaped road that is a loop - see below "Loop Road". Location: about 6 miles East of the meeting of State Road 29 and US Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail)
- Turner River Road Canal
- Bear Island (State Road 29 - 4.5 miles north of I-75)
- Fire Prairie Trail
- HP Williams Roadside Park (south point of the road at US 41-Tamiami) It marks the entrance to the Turner River Road. The roadside park offers restrooms, picnic tables and a safe platform for viewing wildlife. Alligators, fish, turtles, and birds abound along this boardwalk.
- Birdon Road and Wagonwheel Drive - are near Turner River Road
4) Loop Road - about 25 miles, a single lane, unimproved road, starts and ends on US 41. The Loop Road (county road 94), Turner River Road (county road 839), Wagonwheel Road (county road 837) and Birdon Road (county road 841) all provide excellent opportunities to get off the main highways and experience a wilder Florida.
- Sweetwater Swamp/Sweetwater Strand at Sweetwater Slough bridge
- Tree Snail Hammock Nature Trail
- Al Capone's Hunting Lodge
5) Hiking - The Florida National Scenic Trail begins in the Preserve and provides miles of hiking for the adventurer. Short trails include the Fire Prairie Trail and Tree Snail Hammock.
Ranger Led Activities: 239-695-1201. Reservations accepted up to 14 days in advance of the activity
1) 10,000 Islands Park - Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge
Part of the 10,000 Island park is in the Everglades.
The Ten Thousand Islands area of Everglades National Park composes part of the largest stand of protected mangrove forest in the Western Hemisphere. South Florida's coast serves as a vital nursery ground for many of our most prized commercial and recreational marine species. A part of the nation's largest archipelago.
Total Acreage: 35,000
Location: Ten Thousand Islands NWR is located between Marco Island and Everglades City, Florida. The refuge is best accessed by boat. The two prominent boating access points are found in Goodland and Port-of-the-Islands. Take U.S. 41 south out of Naples and drive 12 miles to Hwy 92, turn right and drive 5 miles to Goodland, or continue on U.S. 41 for 5 miles to Port-of-the-Islands. The headquarters for the refuge is located at 3860 Tollgate Blvd,. Naples, FL, within the Comfort Inn at exit 101 on I-75.
- 5 new trails opening Oct 2009 (1 hiking and 4 canoeing/kayak). The hiking trail is a marsh trail that includes an observation tower. This new access is 3 miles east of Collier-Seminole State Park and 3 miles west of Port of the Islands.
- Shoreline co-managed with the Rookery Bay Reserve
Office: 3860 Tollgate Blvd., Ste. 300, Naples, FL 34114 (Off i-75 Exit 101, 3rd Floor Comfort Inn behind the Cracker Barrel)
2) Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge
The Florida Panther NWR is located 20 miles east of Naples, FL, on the northwest corner of the intersection of I-75 and State Road 29. The headquarters for the refuge is located at 3860 Tollgate Blvd, Naples, FL, within the Comfort Inn at exit 101 on I-75.
1) Collier - Seminole Park - At the intersection of State Road 951 along U.S. 41.
20200 E. Tamiami Trail Naples, FL 34114 239-394-3397
2) Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park P.O. Box 548 Copeland, FL 34137 239-695-4593
3) Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park 11135 Gulfshore Dr. Naples, FL 34108 239-597-6196
4) Estero Bay Preserve State Park 3800 Corkscrew Road Estero, FL 33928 239-992-0311
5) Koreshan State Historic Site 3800 Corkscrew Road Estero, FL 33928 239-992-0311
6) Mound Key Archeological State Park 3800 Corkscrew Road Estero, FL 33928 239-992-0311
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve aka Rookery Bay Reserve, Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center, Rookery Bay National Estuary Research Reserve
Location: 300 Tower Rd., Marco Island, FL 34113
The reserve's Briggs Nature Center (239) 775-8569.
Total Acres: 110,000 acres
One of 3 in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Estuarine Research Reserve System.
It is one of the few remaining undisturbed mangrove estuaries in North America. The Rookery Bay and Ten Thousand Islands ecosystem is a prime example of a nearly pristine subtropical mangrove forested estuary. Rookery Bay Reserve is located in the West Florida subregion of the West Indian Biogeographic Region.
Picayune Strand State Forest
Picayune Strand Forest is located in western Collier county, approximately two miles east of the town of Naples, and covers 69,975 acres. Access to Picayune Strand is available to recreation users through honor fee pay stations located at our Belle Meade campground and T-Canal campground. Informational kiosks provide locations, trails, maps, and forest rules. Picayune Strand also has a 22-mile horse trail in conjunction with the Division of Forestry's Trail Trotter program.
Picayune Strand State Forest offers many recreational pursuits.
Whether you enjoy camping, hiking, biking, horse back riding, bird watching, or other recreational activities, Picayune Strand State Forest is sure to offer something for everyone. Picayune Strand is currently using prescribed fires to manage natural areas and finishing mapping the entire forest for presence and density of invasive, exotic plants. More information can be found at the Picayune Strand State Forest web page or download the brochure (pdf, 950k).
Picayune Strand State Forest is primarily comprised of two major tracts of land, the South Golden Gate Estates Tract and the Belle Meade Tract. The South Golden Gate Estates Tract comprises the majority of the forest. The land which is currently Picayune Strand State Forest was originally logged for cypress trees in the 1940's and 1950's, and then in the 1960's, a developer purchased over 57,000 acres to create the largest subdivision in America to be called "Golden Gate Estates". A massive system of canals and roads were built and thus began the infamous "swampland in Florida" scam.
Potential buyers were flown over the area during the dry season then subjected to high pressure salesmen who were selling lots averaging 2.5 acres apiece. Most of the land south of Interstate 75 could never be developed due to the summer flooding, and the development eventually went bankrupt.
In 1985, a plan was put into place to purchase South Golden Gate Estates using Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) funds under the "Save Our Everglades" program. This was an incredibly large undertaking as it involved acquiring land from 17,000 landowners. In 1998, the federal government gave 25 million dollars in aid to the state of Florida to help bring the land acquisitions to a completion. Once the land acquisition is completed, hydrological restoration activities will begin in earnest. This will restore the sheetflow of freshwater that is necessary for the continued existence of the ecologically sensitive Ten Thousand Islands and the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Faka Stand Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve-You can drive the Jane Memorial Scenic
Drive off State Road 29 at Copeland Florida.
137 Coastland Drive (west of Copeland on S.R. 29.)
Copeland, FL 34137
Phone: 1 239 695-4593
The closest to the Amazon in North America
1) Caxambas Park aka Caxambas Pass Park
909 South Collier Boulevard, Marco Island, FL 34145
Phone: 1 239 642 0004 4 acres Open at 7AM daily
2) Marco Island Historical Society Museum 239-642-7468
Collier County (largest Florida County) is also home to a portion of the original Everglades water flowway and many other environmentally sensitive lands, such as mangroves. Over half of the county is in public ownership, managed by either state or federal agencies. Opposing land uses - rampant development and large conservation areas - create unique problems and opportunities for the Rookery Bay reserve. Rookery Bay Reserve staff work closely with private developers, regional planners and the water management district to encourage plans that protect freshwater flows to the estuary and maintain important wildlife corridors, while meeting the needs of a growing population.
Four preserves have been opened:
1) Otter Mound Preserve - Marco Island; on Addison Court a 2.5-acre preserve; Otter Mound is a shell midden located within a neighborhood on Marco Island. The midden is comprised of 15 feet of shell deposits that represent periods dating back 1500 years. The site has archaeological significance. It contains a large mound of significant deposits that represent prehistoric activity.
2) Cocohatchee Creek Preserve - Naples on Immokalee Road; includes a hiking trail on 3.6 acres south of Immokalee Road next to Veterans Community Park.
Cocohatchee River Park is a 7 acre property on Vanderbilt Drive located between 111th Avenue (Immokalee Road) and Bonita Beach Road. The park provides access to the gulf of Mexico through Wiggins Pass.
3) Logan Woods Preserve - Naples - East of I75 at the intersection of Pine Ridge Road and Logan Boulevard, Behind 805 Logan Blvd, North of the intersection of Pine Ridge Road and Logan Blvd. Turn west on Sycamore Drive and
4) Freedom Park near the corner of Golden Gate Parkway east of Goodlette-Frank Road. It has a board walk and allows access to 50 acres of wetlands and inaccessible woods.
Coming is Pepper Ranch in Immokalee
One large park: Mackle Park (1361 Andalusia Terrace)
Three neighborhood pocket parks:
1) Jane Hittler Park (South Collier near the Esplanade)
2) Leigh Plummer Park (Piedmont Circle)
3) Veterans Memorial Park (N Barfield and N Collier Boulevard)
Naples Preserve south of Coastland Center mall ( It is bordered on the west by U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail or Ninth Street North) and on the north by Fleischmann Boulevard.)
www.naplesgov.com/ Departments/ ParksandRecreation/ NaplesPreserve.aspx
Corkscrew Swamp Santuary 239-348-9151 - Estero - Bonita Springs
Managed by National Audubon Society
It is found on Sanctuary Road off Immokalee Road in North Collier County.