News of the Strand

News from the Fakahatchee

Friends of Fakahatchee: Dedicated to financial and volunteer support to preserve the unique ecology and cultural heritage of Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and educate the public about its importance.

Fakahatchee swampwalk reflections

Bruce Bunch June 25, 2015 News and Events

A well-disguised gator patrols Fakahatchee strand. (Photo by Quinn Hiaasen)

By Quinn Hiaasen

The Fakahatchee Strand Preserve is a wetland in the Florida Everglades. Recently we had the treat of visiting this wild place. It is one of the most biologically rich places in the United States, and contains many species that are found nowhere else in North America.

I have always loved nature, and being in the middle of it. The silence and serene qualities of the “middle of nowhere” are very intriguing to me. The swamp was quite literally, the “middle of nowhere”. I was blown away by how small you suddenly feel as you walk deeper into the swamp. Its beauty can pull you further and further into it, and before you know it, you are lost in a seemingly endless landscape of marsh.

As a photographer, the Fakahatchee Strand was the most dramatic environment I have ever been in. Light refracts through the water vapor rising off of the saturated marsh floor, casting long shadows behind trees and plants. Fallen cypress stumps display their ancient architecture that has been etched into their wood by hundreds of years of enduring the watery domain. Water droplets cling to the leaves of bromeliads as a morning dew settles on the plant. Ferns and orchids attach themselves to trunks of pond apple trees. Alligators bask beneath a layer of green slime, patiently waiting for their next meal. There seemed to be an endless number of frames to capture, every square foot of the swamp was special in its own way. I soon realized, however, that I had to pace myself and look for the things that you may walk by without even noticing.

It was an incredible trip. I have come away with some amazing photographs, as well as fond memories. Someday I hope to go into this swamp again, and continue to explore more of the 80,000 acres of wilderness.

Editor’s note: Quinn is the son of author Carl Hiaasen

Groundbreaking for new Boardwalk parking area scheduled for January 2016

Patrick Higgins April 28, 2015 Boardwalk Expansion, News and Events
Overview of the Fakahatchee’s Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk expansion site layout. Locations and routes of new boardwalk sections are approximate.

Approximate locations and routes of new sections of the Fakahatchee’s Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk expansion.

by Patrick Higgins

After years of planning, keeping the vision alive, stop-and-go fund-raising and cajoling, Fakahatchee’s Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk upgrade is finally starting. The State has stepped up to the plate and has just advised your Boardwalk Vision Committee that they are now funding the new parking area. In the not too distant future, haphazard parking will be a thing of the past and the porta-potties will be gone too.

The new parking area will be created out of an old curve of the Tamiami Trail left over from when the highway was straightened. This is located 400 yards further southeast along Highway 41. The new entrance will be where there is currently an obsolete stop sign and metal gate. As this area is already hard-surfaced, the development will have a minimal environmental impact.

The design of this new parking area is 95% complete. The plans include, for the first time, gated access to the Park with a fee collection point, parking for 65 cars, an open-sided picnic pavilion, proper restrooms, and a campsite for resident volunteers, as well as a bridge across the canal. The bridge could be a major feature itself and will lead to an interpretive center nestled on the wet prairie and a new low level boardwalk (shown in green on the attached diagram) connecting to the start of the current Boardwalk.

According to the State’s Bureau of Design and Construction, the design and permitting will be completed before year’s end. Groundbreaking is slated for January 2016. When it’s complete, access from the current ad-hoc parking by the Indian Store will be severed, and that area re-landscaped with native plantings.

Part of the overall plan is a deceleration and turn-lane off Highway 41. Funds for this have been now been transferred from the Florida Department of Revenue to the Department of Transportation, facilitated by the Boardwalk Vision Committee who have been keeping all the disparate elements of the State and local government machinery in the loop. This aspect will be completed as part of the US 41 resurfacing project.

Your Boardwalk Vision Committee can add two other feathers to its cap. The first feather is the likely elimination of a concrete sidewalk that was going to parallel US 41. The second is State funding for the first new boardwalk section (green on the diagram) on the other side of the canal. It will lead to the south side of the Lake and come out near where the picnic table used to be by the Indian Village.

Originally, in the bargain struck last year, FOF was going to be responsible for everything on the other side of the canal. FOF will now only be expected to fund the new interpretive center, the stroller/wheel chair accessible crushed shell path (in blue), a covered observation deck at the top of what we’re calling Green Heron Lake, and the link from there (shown in yellow) to the middle of the existing Boardwalk.

Earlier plans also called for an isolated observation tower out on the wet prairie. Latest thoughts are to replace this with a gradually elevated (maximum 1:20 pitch ) fully ADA compliant section of the boardwalk leading to an observation platform some 20 feet up right on the boundary of the Strand and prairie. This elevated section would be parallel to the edge of the Strand but set back just inside it. A thin line of naturally occurring trees and shrubs will mask it from view as it is approached from the lake and salt marsh/wet prairie. It would gradually reveal a view across the salt marsh/wet prairie and the interior of the Strand. No section of it would be visible from the existing Boardwalk.

FOF is still also responsible, in partnership with the Park, for the overall interpretive planning for the whole expanded site including the contents of the visitor center, interpretive signage and displays. Planning for this is well underway via our Consultants, the Acorn Group, who are producing an interpretive prospective for us. It should be complete in July 2015, and will be an important tool in our fund raising activities. Watch this space for news of our new capital campaign and further details of the plan.

Swamp Walks in the Fakahatchee

FOF September 18, 2014 News and Events

Excerpt of article by Susan Cocking
The Miami Herald – December 31, 2012

Naturalist Glen Stacell, center with cap, leads another group of swamp walkers out of the water and on to Janes Scenic Drive for the tram ride back to park headquarters.

Naturalist Glen Stacell, center with cap, leads another group of swamp walkers out of the water and on to Janes Scenic Drive for the tram ride back to park headquarters.

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park: If you have read Susan Orlean’s book, “The Ghost Orchid,” or watched the movie, “Adaptation,” based on the book, then you will want to join this wet hike into the region dubbed the “Amazon of North America.” Members of the park’s non-profit booster group Friends of Fakahatchee will lead you into a cool wetland shaded by royal palm and bald cypress that holds more native orchid and bromeliad species than anywhere in the U.S. You probably will see a gator or two, and if you are lucky, maybe a black bear or otter.

For more information see our Events Calendar.

Day Hiking in the Fakahatchee

FOF September 18, 2014 News and Events

Excerpt of article by Susan Cocking
The Miami Herald – November 14, 2012

From open prairie to shaded wetland, natural beauty abounds at Fakahatchee.

From open prairie to shaded wetland, natural beauty abounds at Fakahatchee.

The Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park: Florida’s largest (but maybe least-known) state park offers numerous day hiking opportunities, ranging from a 2,000- foot boardwalk to hip-deep swamp slogs. The breadth of flora and fauna you might encounter is almost incalculable: not only is the 75,000-acre Fakahatchee the orchid and bromeliad capital of the world; it is also home to black bear and some rare wildlife species, including the Everglades mink and Eastern indigo snake.

Less adventurous hikers can see gators, a bald eagle nest and numerous kinds of birds from the safety of the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk on the north side of U.S. 41 seven miles west of S.R. 29. But heading out on your own off the Janes Memorial Scenic Drive off S.R. 29 near Copeland is a lot more exciting. That’s where you are most likely to see up close some 44 species of native orchids (plus a few exotics that landed here from Africa) and 14 native bromeliads. Follow numerous tramways intersecting the Janes that stay high and dry all year long, or wade out into the swamp shaded by a canopy of bald cypress and royal palm. Hikers have reported spotting bear, otter, deer and gators in a single day trip.