Big Cypress National Preserve
by The Perkins
William and Sara in front of a bobcat
Though our family has visited National Parks before, it has been several years, and the last time we went adventuring was on our move to Florida when the kids were toddlers. So, in essence, this was the first National Park that the kids remember going to.
Big Cypress National Preserve is located in South Florida, near the Everglades National Park. It is a good park to get started with, as you can get a good tour of the park from your vehicle. Due to the nasty mosquitoes this time of year, hiking is not the best idea.
Big Cypress is most noted for alligators and the Florida panthers who live there. Though we saw lots and lots of alligators, the only panthers we saw were the stuffed ones in the visitor's center.
While there, we watched a neat little film about the park. It brought our attention to the various orchids in the park, and while doing the driving trails, we were able to see some in the distance.
The kids got their Junior Ranger workbooks, and were able to earn a badge for completing the required activities. The really cool thing about Big Cypress National Preserve's Junior Ranger program is that Big Cypress, the Everglades, and Biscayne National Park, South Florida's three parks, have teamed up to offer a special tear shaped patch for Junior Rangers. They need to complete the required activities in all three parks, and then they get this really cool patch for their backpacks! One park down, two to go!
After visiting the ranger station, we went out to have a picnic lunch. Bad idea. The bugs were horrid! They didn't bite me too bad, but the kids were throwing a fit. I think a couple mosquitoes landed on my sandwich and I probably ate them there were so many. Plus, the stone picnic tables had spiders on them, so the kids ate their food standing and doing a funny jump dance to keep the bugs moving.
After lunch, I braved a short boardwalk overlooking a swamp area and saw some gators. Then we all happily climbed back into the truck for a tour.
We saw lots of gators, and lots of grasses. It was a pleasant drive, and a good warm up for the kids for more parks that we will be going to!