Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park near Everglades City in Florida’s Paradise Coast is Florida’ largest State Park and an ecological gem. It is known as the “Amazon of North America” since it is a linear swamp forest 20 miles long by five miles wide. The swamp landscape has been sculpted by the movement of water for thousands of years with clean fresh water the key to its existence. Beneath a canopy of bald cypress trees flows a slow moving shallow river or slough, which is warmer than the ambient temperature in the winter and cooler in the summer. This fosters a high level of rare and endangered tropical plant species. In fact, Fakahatchee Strand is the Native Orchid Capital of the North America with 44 native orchids, including the rare and famous ghost orchid and 14 native bromeliad species. It is also a haven for wildlife.  Florida panthers still pursue white-tailed deer from the uplands across the wetlands. Florida black bears and Eastern indigo snakes, Everglades minks and diamondback terrapins can be found. The resident and migratory bird life is spectacular and attracts many visitors that can enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities.

A good introduction to the park is the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk located alongside Tamiami Trail. Step into the world's only Bald Cypress-Royal Palm Forest here and you're likely to spot American alligators, Florida box turtles and perhaps an American bald eagle pair and their fledgling chicks. An 11-mile car or a bike ride down Janes' Memorial Scenic Drive showcases the park's different natural communities where you’re likely to spot wildflowers blooming on the prairies. Go early in the morning or towards dusk and you might catch a glimpse of a Florida black bear or rare Florida panther. If you're feeling more adventurous, sign up for a tram tour or a guided swamp walk with a park naturalist. Tram tours, guided hikes, boardwalk tours and swamp walks are offered by the Friends of Fakahatchee Inc. from November-March. Private ecotour guides also provide year round guided tour experiences including swamp walks and paddling adventures. Visitors staying in nearby Naples and Marco Island will find the Fakahatchee a great place for a half or full day Everglades experience. For more information, visit the ParadiseCoast.com website and search for Fakahatchee. 

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