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12 Places To Go In The Everglades Watershed:

1. Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park

THINGS TO DO: Hiking and Biking

We will start the list with a park at the headwaters of the Everglades.

The Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park is located north of Lake Okeechobee and just east of the Kissimmee River. Protecting the largest remaining tract of Florida dry prairie, this park is a spectacular place for bird watching but the best part is observed after dark. Due to its wide open spaces and far proximity from city lights, you can view some of the most beautiful night skies. Internationally recognized, it is said that you can even see the Milky Way without a telescope. It is the perfect place to truly sleep under the stars.

2. Fisheating Creek

THINGS TO DO: Kayaking and Canoeing

The next spot to go is Fisheating Creek which is located directly west of Lake Okeechobee.

This creek winds its way through massive bald cypress trees. I highly recommend taking the shuttle to Burnt Bridge so that you can paddle back with the current. I have tenaciously tried paddling upstream but would only recommend if you are trying to burn off those holiday calories. As you are paddling, be sure to take a close look at the cypress trees where you will see things like air plants, apple snail eggs and lots of sunning turtles. There are alligators so please use caution and do not swim in the water. This is a wonderful place to relax and let the current take you down stream.

3. Jonathan Dickinson State Park

THINGS TO DO: Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking and Biking

The next spot to go is Fisheating Creek which is located directly west of Lake Okeechobee.

This beautiful park has so many activities available, from canoeing/kayaking to mountain biking to hiking, there is a little something for everyone. If you are hiking, I recommend taking the white loop, which only allows hikers. The other trails throughout the park are mixed‑use with bikers and horseback riders. Part of this trail is a unique Sand Pine Scrub so be prepared to walk through some sand. There are beautiful wildflowers that line the trail, and I have even seen a few deer cross the path in front of me. The trails here are long so I suggest packing a picnic and plenty of water, and make a day of it!

4. Grassy Water Preserve

THINGS TO DO: Kayaking, Canoeing, and Hiking

Directly south is Grassy Waters Preserve, which is a 23 square mile wetlands ecosystem just northwest of West Palm Beach.

In addition to the boardwalk, there is a network of biking and hiking trails. Not only does this preserve serve as an important nesting area for various bird species but it also provides the fresh water supply for the City of West Palm Beach and the towns of South Palm Beach and Palm Beach Island. During December and January, many of the wading birds, like Spoonbills, are starting to nest. This is also the time of year where you will be able to see a large amount of migratory birds escaping the cold weather of the north.

5. J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge

THINGS TO DO: Kayaking, Canoeing, and Hiking

J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located on Sanibel Island.

Here you can see an abundance of birds that flock to this important estuary. This area is where the Caloosahatchee River meets the Gulf of Mexico creating a rich environment for wildlife. The refuge can be seen by foot, bike, kayak or even vehicle. This is a great place for family members of all ages since there is a “Wildlife Drive” that allows you to take your own car. Along the “Wildlife Drive” there are a few trails that you can stop and explore. I highly recommend checking out their website for all of the various activities that they offer.

6. Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary


Starting our descent south, brings us to Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

This wonderful sanctuary brings you right to the middle of the “swamp” without getting wet. The 2.25 mile boardwalk guides you through various habitats and I suggest taking your time with this hike since the more quiet you are, the more possibilities there are to see wildlife. One my favorite Everglades species, the North American River Otter is known to frolic with its fellow playmates on the boardwalk. Now I cannot suggest an Audubon sanctuary without mentioning a bird, so keep an eye out for Barred Owls, which you will mostly hear their famous hoot, “Who Cooks For You,”before you see them.

7. Conservation Levee Greenway - Sawgrass Trailhead

THINGS TO DO: Hiking and Biking

The next place is the Sawgrass Trailhead at Atlantic Boulevard in Broward County.

I suggest taking the trail that goes straight out into the Everglades, which offers an elevated view of the Everglades and a serene waterside trail. As you escape the sounds of the busy Sawgrass Expressway listen out for various birds and even a bellowing alligator. The great part of this trail is that you can turn around at any time so you control the distance. The best time to hike this trail is either early in the morning or just before one of those famous Everglades sunsets.

8. Big Cypress National Preserve


My absolute favorite place to go hiking is the Big Cypress National Preserve because of the diversity of habitats.

The Florida Trail runs right through the preserve and is the best place to hike. This trail can be accessed at the Collier County Rest Area off of Alligator Alley and this is where you can decide to go north or south. The northern trail is definitely drier since it is a pineland habitat which also means more wide open spaces for some spectacular views. The southern trail takes you through cypress swamps which mean you are going to get wet but it is a very unique experience. Both are equally beautiful and worth it so I suggest doing both at some point. As a warning, I have come upon venomous snakes while hiking here so I strongly encourage you to practice caution as you walk.

9. Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve

THINGS TO DO: Kayaking, Canoeing, and Hiking

The Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve is located north of Tamiami Trail.

You can access the boardwalk directly from Tamiami Trail but there are also other hiking trails throughout the preserve. Fakahatchee is known for its Florida Panther and Black Bear sightings but they are very rare and if you do see them they will be way down the trail. There are also many places to fish here, so you can try your luck at catching that slammer bass!

10. Collier Seminole State Park

THINGS TO DO: Kayaking, Canoeing, and Hiking

Just down the road from Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve is Collier Seminole State Park. Here is where you can start to access 10 Thousand Islands.

This park is partially within the great mangrove swamp of southern Florida, one of the largest mangrove swamps in the world. I highly recommend kayaking or canoeing here where you will have the chance to see both alligators and manatees. If you are not a fan of getting out on the water, there are plenty of hiking trails throughout the park. Keep an eye out for Gopher Tortoises that are excellent at hiding in plain sight.

11. Shark Valley

THINGS TO DO: Hiking and Biking

This section of Everglades National Park has a 15 mile loop that takes you through a slough which also means it is susceptible to flooding.

When open you can either hike, bike or take a tram on the 15 mile loop. I highly suggest biking since there is no shade on the trail and you can cover more ground quicker. In the colder months, you will see alligators sunning themselves along the bank. Please do not approach or harass the alligators. Another critter you may see on the biking path is crawfish and certain times of year, they are all over the path. The best part of this trail is the observation tower at the halfway point which offers gorgeous views.

12. Everglades National Park

THINGS TO DO: Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking and Biking

Last but not least is Everglades National Park which ends the Everglades watershed in Florida Bay.

These last 38 miles starting from at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center to Flamingo, showcase all types of Everglades habitats, from pinelands to slough to mangrove swamps. This is also the place where you can see both alligators and crocodiles living in the same place, Florida being the only place in the world where this occurs. There are multiple trails that you can access from the main road. Something to pay attention is the changing landscape as you head south to Florida Bay.

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