Collier-Seminole State Park

Description & History:
The 7,271-acre Collier-Seminole State Park lies partly within the great mangrove swamp of southern Florida, one of the largest mangrove swamps in the world. A wide variety of wildlife, including several imperiled species, inhabits this unusual blend of temperate and tropical native plant communities. Collier-Seminole State Park features vegetation and wildlife typical of Florida’s Everglades. Although rare elsewhere, the park covers one of three original stands of royal palm trees in Florida, coexisting with large areas of mangrove swamp.

The park is the site of a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, the last existing Bay City Walking Dredge. Built in 1924, it was used to build the Tamiami Trail Highway (U.S. 41) through the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp, linking Tampa and Miami and opening southwest Florida to travelers.

Park programs are offered from December to March. Park rangers present programs on a variety of topics about the park’s plants, animals and history. Visitors can experience this park’s remarkable wilderness on several trails. The Blackwater River originates in the park and meanders several miles through the mangroves to Blackwater Bay and the Ten Thousand Islands.

Collier Seminole State Park provides visitors with the opportunity to enjoy numerous different activities, including the following:

Bicycling
Off-road biking is available on Historic Marco Road along a 3.5 mile course along marsh, hammock and pine flatwood.

Birding
Collier-Seminole State Park is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail and offers many opportunities for bird watching. With three different hiking trails in the park as well as a 13.5 mile canoe trail, there are a number of different natural communities to explore. Over 150 different species of birds have been spotted in the park.

Boat Ramp
The boat basin at Collier-Seminole State Park has a ramp that allows access to the Blackwater River.  The Blackwater River is a tidal river that flows to the Gulf of Mexico.  It is recommended that watercraft no larger than 24 ft. launch from the site.

Boat Tours
Kayak and pole-boat tours are offered by a concessioniare located at the park boat basin.  From December through March, The Friends of Collier-Seminole State Park offer daylight and moonlight canoe tours along the Blackwater River.

Camping
The campground is considered a tropical outpost on the edge of the Everglades. All sites have electricity, water, a grill and picnic table. There are 105 campsites that accommodate all campers, from tents to large motor homes. The restrooms have hot showers and one has a laundry facility. A centralized dump station is available for RV campers.

The primitive campsite for hikers is located approximately three miles from the parking area along the six-mile hiking trail north of Highway 41. The site accommodates up to 6 people. The hiking trail is wet during the summer months and some sections are muddy all year. The primitive canoe campsite at Grocery Place accommodates up to 8 people. Accessible only by boat or canoe, the site is located approximately nine miles from the park boat basin.

Canoeing and Kayaking
Collier-Seminole State Park is a great place to canoe or kayak. The Blackwater river flows down through a beautiful mangrove forest and into the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The river is tidal but very gentle and is a good place for less experienced paddlers. Bring your own equipment or rent a canoe from the park for only $5.00 an hour or $25.00 for the day plus tax.

Fishing
The Blackwater River is a mix of salt and fresh water and provides plenty of fishing opportunities. To fish on the river a saltwater fishing license is required.

Hiking
The Royal Palm Hammock Nature Trail/Boardwalk (0.9 miles) provides visitors with the unique opportunity to explore a tropical hardwood hammock, known as “Royal Palm Hammock.” Here are plants more common to the Yucatan or Caribbean, with a thick canopy of royal palm trees, gumbo limbo, Jamaican dogwood, satin leaf and many varieties of ferns. About two-fifths of a mile in, the trail will split and quickly bring you to the boardwalk, where the habitat changes to low wetlands that are inundated with water most of the year. Here you will see pond apple trees, thick patches of giant leather ferns or stands of white mangrove trees. The far end of the boardwalk has a 200 yard spur trail that ends at a scenic overlook over a salt marsh. Often birds are seen feeding or nesting in the area. Animals such as bobcat and bear have been sighted but avoid people and remain elusive.

The Hiking Adventure Trail (6.5 miles) provides hikers with the quintessential Florida opportunity of hiking through a wet cypress swamp, and much of this trail is wet during the year except in the winter and early spring. This is Everglades & Big Cypress habitat in its natural state! Give yourself about 3 or 4 hours to enjoy the entire trail.

The Off Road Bike & Hiking Trail (3.5 miles) is suitable for either biking or walking. About half of the trail is a historic road bed named “Old Marco Road.” This is easily traversed and dry year-round. Sections of the rest of the trail are wet through the summer months. The wildlife most often seen are deer, gopher tortoise, herons, woodpeckers or gray cat birds. Though rare, it is possible to see endangered species like Florida panthers and red cockaded woodpeckers. Black bears are also common. You can bring your own bike or rent one at the ranger station.

Historic Site
Bay City Walking Dredge No. 489 was constructed in Bay City, Michigan and used to construct the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) in the late 1920s.  Its revolutionary design allowed it to “walk” itself forward as it was dredging limestone to create the roadbed.  The Bay City Walking Dredge was designated a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1993.  An ASME landmark represents “a progressive step in the evolution of mechanical engineering.”  The Dredge was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.  The Dredge is on display inside the park with kiosks explaining its history and function.

Picnicking
There are four picnic pavilions available at the park’s picnic area. Located nearby the picnic area is a playground and the park’s boat basin.  Three of the pavilions have grills and all have picnic tables.  These are non-reservable and available on first-come basis.

Wildlife Viewing
Collier-Seminole State Park offers the opportunity for some of the most diverse wildlife viewing in the Florida State Park system.  With three hiking trails and a 13.5 mile canoe trail there are many different natural communities to travel through.  Some species found in the park include Florida panther, bobcat, gopher tortoise, manatee, and alligator.  For a list of species found in the park stop in at the ranger station.

The park was originally created by Barron Gift Collier to preserve the royal palm trees and later the park was donated to the county. The park then served as a memorial to Barron Collier and those who fought on both sides of the Seminole Wars. In 1947, the county donated the land which became Collier-Seminole State Park.

In the 1700s, Seminole Indians emigrated from the Creek Confederacy to Florida. Three Seminole Wars took place to remove the Seminoles from Florida and send them to reservations. During the Third Seminole War, the Seminoles resisted and retreated to the swamps of southwest Florida. Soldiers searching for the Indians drew maps. One crude 1857 military map illustrates the Blackwater River and an area labeled “palm grove.” That area, now part of the park, contains the beautiful royal palm trees.

In the 1920s, advertising tycoon and pioneer developer, Barron Collier purchased nearly a million acres in southwest Florida. In 1923, it became Collier County.  Barron Collier was a major investor in developing the Collier County section of the Tampa-to-Miami highway, the Tamiami Trail.

Usage Fees:

Admission:

  • $5 per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle.
  • $4 per single occupant vehicle.
  • $2 for pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers or passengers in a vehicle with a holder of the annual individual entrance pass.

Camping:

  • $22 per night, plus tax, plus a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. Includes water and electricity.

Miscellaneous:

  • $4 plus tax: Boat ramp
  • $5.30 per hour: canoe rental
  • $26.50 per day: canoe rental

CONTENT SOURCE: https://www.floridastateparks.org/
IMAGE SOURCE: https://www.floridastateparks.org/