Description & History:
The freshwaters of the Big Cypress Swamp, essential to the health of the neighboring Everglades, support the rich marine estuaries along Florida’s southwest coast. Protecting over 729,000 acres of this vast swamp, Big Cypress National Preserve contains a mixture of tropical and temperate plant communities that are home to a diversity of wildlife, including the elusive Florida panther.
Plan on spending at least a few hours in the national preserve, exploring scenic drives, roadside parks, and several of the viewpoints and boardwalks. If time permits, consider attending a ranger-led activity. Guided walks, short talks and campfire programs are offered daily, November through April.
When you enter the national preserve be on Highway 41, this is where the fun begins. Not only is this roadway an experience in itself, it is the route to all places of interest at Big Cypress. All along the scenic drive there are scenic pull-offs, designed to give you wildlife viewing opportunities.
Depending on which direction you’re coming from, you’ll definitely want to get the latest information and recommendations at one of our visitor contact stations. Big Cypress National Preserve (from the east) is Oasis Visitor Center, Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center (from the west). At these locations, you will be greeted by a National Park Ranger, who will welcome you and provide you with a map and other information about the national preserve.
In addition to a few stops along the way, plan a stop at the visitor centers, bookstores, and interesting exhibits. Kirby Storter Boardwalk is a great place to spend some time and you will see hiking trailheads all along the scenic drive.
There are two popular scenic drives within Big Cypress National Preserve. While visiting the national preserve, take the time to leave the beaten trail of US-41 (Tamiami Trail) and take a more leisurely journey along one of these scenic drives.
is a 27-mile drive that travels through dwarf cypress forest, pine forests and deep strands.
Turner River / Wagonwheel / Birdon Roads Loop
is a 17-mile drive that takes you by open prairies and popular wading bird feeding areas.
Before Big Cypress National Preserve was established in 1974, road-weary drivers traveling along Highway 41 found few opportunities to pull over and stretch their legs. Both H.P. Williams and Kirby Storter Roadside Parks provide the opportunity to recharge your batteries and appreciate the beauty of this special place. Both parks are midway between Miami and Naples along the Tamiami Trail.
H.P. Williams Roadside Park
This small roadside rest area is named for Homer P. Williams, an engineer, who worked for Barron Collier during the construction of Tamiami Trail in the 1920s.
Kirby Storter Roadside Park
Approximately halfway through your drive across Big Cypress along Highway 41 is Kirby Storter Roadside Park. Named after one of the area’s pioneering families, Kirby Storter worked for several years as a carpenter and electrician for Barron Collier, and later oversaw construction of South Florida roads (including Tamiami Trail) for the Florida Roads Department.
There is no entrance fee to access the national preserve. Fees are collected within the national preserve for some facilities and the processing of off-road vehicle permits.