The swamps of the Fakahatchee Strand are foreboding places. Dark, mysterious, seemingly inhospitable and impenetrable. But the Great Cypress Bend Boardwalk makes tromping through the swamp as easy an evening’s stroll.
The Fakahatchee Strand has been called the Amazon of North America because of the rich diversity of plants and animals living within. There are plants found here that grow nowhere else on the planet; orchids, ferns, bromeliads. Royal palm trees are endangered in the wild, but they thrive here; rare old-growth cypress tower above the canopy; thick ground cover provides habitat for Florida panthers, black bears and alligators. A pair of nesting eagles keeps watch over the Fakahatchee during the cooler months; listen for the call of barred owls as evening approaches
The boardwalk is about a half-mile long, well-marked with interpretive signs; one will point you in the direction of the eagle’s nest. It terminates at an observation platform and sitting area at a gator hole seemingly miles from the outside world. The temptation is to just sit there and take in the peaceful surroundings but eventually, you do have to go back. But the return is part of the adventure; there are still secrets to uncover.
Big Cypress Bend is part of Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and is open dawn to dusk through the year. The fee for entering the park is $3 per car but is enforced on an honor system. The bugs were tolerable when we visited in winter, but bring insect repellent and consider long sleeves and long pants in the warmer months.