Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge
www.fws.gov/floridapanther - (239) 658-6163
Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge Immokalee Reviews
What??? Florida has big cats?? Mar 30, 2009
This was another local trail that I decided to give a try. Coming from Fort Lauderdale, it was a lot further then I thought. Hell another 10 minutes and I would have been in Naples. But you never know under you try, right?
The FPNWR was designed to give the Florida Panther a chance of surviving in over-populated South Florida. The refuge is almost 26,000 acres and is located in the heart of the Big Cypress Preserve. Since the big cats usually come out at night and rest during the day, the chances of seeing one is extremely rare. But, if you're a snake lover, you see plenty of those. Did I ever mention I don't like snakes?
I thought it was a little weird that this place had a parking lot big enough for tour buses. But the only bus there when I arrived was the Collier County Department of Corrections. Thats right - a chain gang. Actually not really, just the local cons that maintain the trailheads. They were actually nice enought to give me some info about the place.
If you have ever hiked anywhere in South Florida, you know that the state is pretty flat. I mean, seriously I wish my belly were as flat as Florida. There isn't much here. Just a trail that loops around (I would have know this if I read the signs), a man-made pond for migrating birds to visit (which was bone dry when I arrived), and an observation tower that I was not able to locate. What you do get is a nice scenic walk through some hardwood hammock and pine forest.
It doesn't matter which gate you walk through, since it will loop around and come out on the other end of where you started. The day I did the hike, I should have checked the weather forecast. We had just had three days of heavy rains in the area. And I was getting bored sitting at home, so I left to check the place out. About half way into the trail, the clouds starting rolling in and getting dark. And since I didn't read the signs, was debating if I should turn around and head back or keep going. I decided to press on. Which brings to mind, in Florida during storm season we tend to get some forest fires which are started by lightning. Apparently this place had such a fire several years ago, since the damage was still visible.
I tried to get some shots of the different areas and some fire damage (and the resulting regrowth). Hope you like them.
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