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.
About the The Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk
The Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk area on the north side of Route 41 West of SR-29 still looks much as it did some 60 years ago when in 1957 Lester Norris purchased 640 acres to save it from logging, the area at the time was called Big Cypress hence the reason why the boardwalk is called the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk although it is in the Fakahatchee. Lester Norris also built the boardwalk and he later deeded the property to the state along with a $67,000.00 donation.
The 2,300 foot wooden boardwalk takes visitors into the heart of Fakahatchee Strand, the largest bald cypress/royal palm swamp in the world. Forty interpretive signs provide information along the way. A lovely pond at the end of the Boardwalk is great place to rest and observe alligators and a variety of birds who make the pond their home.
As you walk along the boardwalk, you are entering the central slough, the deepest part of the Fakahatchee Strand. The bald cypress trees surrounding the boardwalk are hundreds of years old. The smaller pop ash and pond apple trees host epiphytic orchids, ferns and bromeliads in their multiple trunks. Pickerel weed and alligator flag plants thrive in the slowly moving water below the boardwalk.
Members of the Friends volunteer for interpretive duty along the route and you’ll enjoy their tales of the denizens of the swamp.
The current boardwalk is maintained entirely through volunteer labor and supplies are funded by visitor donations. Volunteers work to keep up with the ravages of weather and wear in the planks and pilings that often goes unnoticed, but is critical to exposing visitors to the Fakahatchee Strand.
Fakahatchee in the Fort Myers News-Press
The Fort Myers News-Press special weekend section Tropicalia on January 24 featured an article, “Have a wild time exploring the Fakahatchee”. It showed photos of the tram and the eagle’s nest at the Boardwalk and included an interview with Bruce Bunch, FOF Communication Committee Chair. Another article is about orchid restoration, “Florida-Cuba science projects move forward“.
by Linda Koreny
This was another interesting, though quite abnormal, year at the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk. Normally when we arrive back in late fall, the water has begun to go down; this year, however, the strand maintained its water level and only now can it be said that the water is definitely dropping! As a result, most everything was different this year which just increased my fascination.
The activity of our Florida Bald Eagles in their nest was quite out of the ordinary for April. Late afternoon April 4, I saw both of the adults in the nest. Park employee Wynlyn McBride shared her April observations:
Around noon on April 6, I observed 1 adult in the nest and 2 separate vocalizations from chicks. At 1:33pm the 2nd adult arrived in the nest, flying in from the west side of the nest. Then on April 13, I observed the eagles nest from 1:00pm to 1:30pm. 1 adult was observed during that time period, no vocalizations from chicks, and no observations of the 2nd adult.
One evening we observed two baby Barred Owls and their parent, one on a lower branch and the other higher in an adjoining tree. They seemed to be enjoying observing us as much as we enjoyed observing them and then, casually, one by one, they flew off.
Another frequent visitor to the Boardwalk shared her wildlife viewing experiences with these remarks: Though the Belted Kingfishers seem to be gone now, I noticed a Green Heron feeding in the canal in front of the Boardwalk. An Anhinga and small gators with their dark with yellow stripes were hanging out, as well as an adult gator. Along the path to the boards, I saw a 3-foot red rat snake and Grackles. While I was on the boardwalk, I saw Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Pileated Woodpeckers, Catbirds, Crows, Red-shouldered Hawks, Ospreys, American Woodstorks and Swallow-tailed Kites.
A week ago 2 young men, 4 and 5 year old Owen & Chasse, wearing their backpacks filled with snacks, reported seeing an Eastern Gray Squirrel eating something that looked like an acorn, an American alligator floating by, as well as fish gulping air.
The Bald Cypress Trees are now bursting with green leaves, creating a cool, shady canopy – a very pleasant place to take a quiet, reflective stroll.
Share your summer experiences on the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk with me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you in the fall!
Boardwalk Expansion Project
The Boardwalk Expansion Project will rebuild the deteriorating Boardwalk and expand its capacity by adding a loop with elevated viewing sites around a scenic lake on the routes to and from the proposed new parking area. Along the way there will be a number of rest stops and rain shelters each of which will have been situated for a particular interpretive purpose. Where possible, natural resources will be interpreted in the open air and cultural resources within these shelters. Our vision also includes interactive displays with QR coding. Read more on our Projects page.
The Park and FOF took the first steps in a six-month process to develop an Interpretive Prospectus by hosting an Interpretive Planning Workshop at Rookery Bay on January 14, 2015. The event was facilitated by Jennifer Rigby and Kris Whipple from the Acorn Group, a specialist interpretive planning firm whom FOF have retained for the duration of this project. Read more about this exciting step forward here.