Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Swamp walking up to my hips

Monday February 3, 2014
Midway Campground
Big Cypress National Preserve


Notes:  If you have not read the post on the EYES exhibit at the Coe visitor Center in the Everglades, I hope you will,  it’s an amazing set of art works.   Also if you are snake phobic, the first two pictures are of a water snake.  Hope you’ll give it a try.  It’s the only snake picture in the post.



We love walking IN the swamp.

Since we are only here 4 nights/3 days, we discuss our favorite to dos and come up with a 3 days plan.  We are lucky enough to arrive on Sunday so we can make the Monday swamp walk.  This is only offered on Monday and Saturday.  Better a week day we think.

We arrive at the Oasis Visitor Center at 9:30 and are a little early so we go over on the boardwalk and look into the canal to see who is out this morning.  Alligators of course and this brown water snake.  Wish I could have gotten a better picture of those eyes.









Outside the VC we meet Ranger Melissa who shows us where we are in the park and where we are going.  She also gives us the rules.  Close toed shoes that won’t get sucked off in the muck and long pants.  We’ve done this “hike” before so we are well prepared.  The woman in orange in the picture is not.  She  has on sandals and doesn’t go.





Melissa provides “hiking poles” for anyone who needs them.  We learned previously hat these work better than our hiking poles. 

We head out across the road.  Melissa tells us this crossing is the most dangerous part of the hike.  Once on the other side we are in water immediately.   The water is much higher than it was last year when we did the hike.  It is actually easier to walk in the deeper water than it is in just the mud/muck.   Keep your eye on where the water is on folks pant legs.   It gets WAY better than this. 





This is what a cypress swamp looks like, saw grass, cypress trees and water.






Cypress are deciduous trees.  They lose their leaves in “winter” which they define as less light at more of an angle.  This is one of their seed pods.





A little further on, Ranger Melissa stops to point out perfect panther habitat. 


No way you could walk through this thick saw palmetto and other vegetation.  But the panther can.  Unfortunately this habitat is not very appealing to man who feels he needs access to everywhere.  A male panther needs 200 square miles of habitat.  So the loss of habitat to development and human access is even more of a threat than our cars which are a big one.  There are less than 200 panthers in all of the Everglades including the National Panther Refuge. At least half a dozen are killed each year on the highways running through the Glades with speed limits of 60mph +. What ARE the law makers thinking? I wonder why we must always have the “freedom” to do anything we want regardless of how it affects the others of all species.   I want more panthers.  For that to happen they must have the habitat and safety they need to live their lives naturally.






The water gets deeper and more fun the further into the swamp we go.




You can see the mosquitoes are no problem, David is rolling up his shirt sleeves.





We move into the cypress hammock.  The water gets even deeper and the air cooler.  Many more air plants and bromeliads.









There are a variety of flowers growing in the swamp.






Among the flowers in Big Cypress are some 30 species of orchids. Ranger Melissa points out a few but none are flowering.  This cowhorn or “cigar” orchid does have a seed pod though.  It is that bright green pod in the picture of the second orchid.











Bromeliads and ferns are thick.





Our footsteps are mucking up the waters.


Notice the clear water in this fern picture and the chocolate water in the two that follow.  If you are the leader of the hike or out here on your own, you can see clearly in the water.  But many feet stir up the mud.









Still chocolate water or not,  I’m a happy camper!! Water above my knees.




This little cypress tree didn’t get the message to drop its leaves.  They are feathery, almost fernlike.




We are approaching our goal, the gator hole in the center of the cypress hammock.


The water is getting even deeper.  I’m holding both my camera and my binoculars up.  How deep will it get???   I’ve never been swimming in a swamp before.







Remember this is David’s 4th camera so he wisely moves it out of his pants pocket and into his shirt pocket. How about the water level now.  All this rain has made this a great hike.  The resurrection ferns on the limb behind David are liking all this rain as well.






Our goal is an alligator hole in among the cypress and here we are.  The alligator is in residence, I can see it but s/he is on the other side of the hole back in a corner and out of range of my camera.   In very dry winters, alligators carve out these holes with their tails by thrashing around and invite others in to join them.  Some of those others become an occasional dinner.   But mostly they all live quite peacefully together.   We are far too many and far too big for anything but concern from the alligator. 







At the gator hole the water is as deep as it gets on me, so no swimming.  I had thought it might get up to my waist.  But it definitely gets the seat of my pants wet. 





This is our turn around point.  As we head back, the water level is quite varied.







The sun is blindingly bright as we turn back toward the visitor center.





What a beautiful habitat.  More flowers, more bromeliads.  They are pretty easy to spot with their bright colors.














As we approach then end, we are apparently going “up hill”.  HA! 


We know this only because the water gets more shallow, and the muck gets thicker and deeper.  It’s not nose bleed territory.





Both David and I spot shoe soles that have been taken by the sucking mud.  We joke that people lose their souls in the swamp.

He takes a picture of one.  I find a much more sturdy and  larger full black sole but don’t take a photo of it.  I do point it out to David though.  It’s bigger and more sturdy.  The jokes continue.






Here we are at the end of the hike. Do you think he’s had a good time?




I’m sure you guessed whose sole I saw.  

When we discover it, I ask David if he wants to go back and get it since it isn’t far back and I had set it off to the side so if the owner wanted it he could come back.   David decides that 20+ years out of a pair of hiking boots is good enough service and he’ll just replace them although they still fit well, are broken in just the way he likes them and seemed to have many more years of service.





Later, after he has tossed them in the trash and we are gone from Big Cypress, I remember that L.L. Bean products are guaranteed for life.   If we’d remembered that and sent them back, the company would have repaired or replaced them.  Sure wish I would have remembered earlier.   These were great boots and it would have been interesting to see what they would do.   L.L. Bean makes a great hiking boot.



Yet again, more rain.


We get back about 2:00 and the rains start just after that.   I think it would have been great to be in the swamp during the rains but lightning is a factor here in these flat lands.




The rains continue past sunset and into the night.  What odd weather for winter in Big Cypress.  No wonder the little cypress tree is confused.





We serve up a nice warm dinner of sweet and sour tempeh over multi-grained rice.  Tastes as good as it looks.




Oasis Visitor Center’s Two hour Wet and Wild Swamp Walk is our favorite thing to do in Big Cypress.  We take it every time we come for more than one night.   Maybe next time we’ll take the Florida Trail through the swamp on our own.  Then we’ll see nothing but clear water.   Thanks to Ranger Melissa for a great hike and for taking this picture.




  1. It certainly seems like an interesting thing to do, although I'm sure I'll never walk in a swamp if I can help it.

  2. Fun stuff. We will have to get down there and do that one of these days. I bet the cost per wear on those boots is pretty darn good.

  3. Now that's an interesting hike to take! I should think that it could get pretty buggy at times though.

  4. Well, we have been sitting here in all that rain just so you could have a great swamp hike;o)) This is the coldest and rainiest winter ever!! Sure hope it dries out for the boondocking rally!! See you soon...

  5. Yikes! I wouldn't want to do this, but golly, look at those smiles on your faces! ;->

    Virtual hugs,


  6. Well? I don't understand the fascination with walking in swamps or sucking mud ... but you don't like root beer so I guess it's a wash... on likes and such.

  7. I was thinking about your comment on the panthers & the 60 mph speed limit.
    I would hate to have someone come visit where I live for just 3 days and decide that I will have to spend my life taking longer to get everywhere because they didn't like the speed limits in my area...and then they leave.

    I am going to have to remember this when we get down to Florida next year, that looks like a great guided walk!

  8. Hi Rob, We've been in Big cypress and the Everglades for many more than 3 days over the years. And there are other ways to get places than the roads that run right through the National Preserve. There are few people other than the Native Americans living here so I don't think lowering the speed limit in favor of the wildlife for which the preserve was created would be a hardship to anyone but the truckers blasting through. And they'd figure out other routes. Hope you get to do the swamp walk. They actually have 3 different ones to choose from and there is another one offered at the COE visitor center in the Everglades.

  9. Surprised they are not concerned about a hiker getting bitten by a snake, or an alligator. As for me, the dirt, mud, water is not an issue....the snakes and alligators are. Lived along an Ox Bow lake near the Arkansas River in Arkansas for nearly seven years....saw a few snakes, but was on the lookout for them every day. It sure looked like you all had a blast, good for you! Sorry about the shoes. Are you back in the Tampa area yet? I see your "Where is Winnona Now?" list that you were only down there until the 6th. --Dave (GoingRvWay.com)

  10. Oh my gosh! I'm about to turn around and head to Florida! Sounds so neat! What a cool experience. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Brave souls:) No swamp hikes for me. I can handle the alligators, but snakes-not so much:)

  12. Oh, dear, I can't believe that hike. We saw hiking trails on the map while we were there, then someone told us that the hikes were in the slough. We LOVE hiking but I'm not meant for the wet hike. I enjoyed seeing your smiles as you you mucked your way through that high water. You two were loving it:) Good for you!

    How cool to see those two single daisy type flowers:) The bromelaids are just magnificent. We saw several blooming on our canoe trip in the park. They were so pretty.

    I was surprised to hear about loosing a sole. Boy, that is strong muck.

    Dinner looked yummy.

  13. Interesting outing ... but you won't see me doing this one. Just the thought of snakes being in that area would be all the deterrent I need.

  14. Wow, what a hike. All I would be thinking about is the thousands of Pythons I've read that are somewhere down that way. You guys have nerves of steel. Beautiful pics and so glad it makes you smile. Be safe

  15. That's a great picture of you two intrepid explorers. A very interesting hike, and your feet never got too hot! ;c)

  16. Oh....eeew, that would not be something I would EVER do.. getting dirty and wet and ruining shoes/clothes... no matter what is seen.... and I know I would be missing out....

  17. I want to do that hike!! Our plans are to be in Florida next fall...I'm putting that hike on our to-do list. Great post!

  18. You are walking in a swamp? With snakes and alligators? In thin pants?? NOW who's the brave one! Well, I would be okay as long as there are no leeches. That's where I would have to draw the line, I think.

    What a fun hike that looks to be! Never knew you could do such a thing. It's going on my NP list for sure! What a GREAT photo of the two of you!

  19. That's a cool hike. Email a copy of this blog to LL Bean, Maybe they would like the publicity of a happy blogger.

  20. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I'm one of those with a snake phobia. Don't know where it came from and I hate it, but have had it since childhood. I've worked hard to make it manageable (a hiker HAS to) and at least now can look at pictures without freaking, but I've still got a long way to go. Thanks for the warning! Having said that, I'm curious along with other commenters.....does Ranger Melissa even mention watching out for snakes/alligators at the start of the hike? Or say what to do if you see one? Maybe with a group that large, it isn't even an issue since all wildlife would run the other way. LOL! Looks like fun. Not sure I'd ever get up the nerve to do it, but sure would be tempted to try!

  21. Nice way to get up close and personal to a swamp but I'm not sure we would do that hike, either. I'm guessing the risk of being bitten by a snake or alligator is pretty low or the NPS would not take people out there.

  22. Sherry, you just keep adding to my list of things to see & do. Thanks!

  23. Oh I remember you both doing this last year (I think?). I know that would not be on our list, I'm too freaked out by such things :-) I'll stick to the hard pack trails, thank you!

  24. I thought you'd be wearing hip boots- guess you'll have to wash the pants! L.L. Bean would have been thrilled silly to get David's mud covered hiking boots. They probably could've used them for an ad. Walking through there looked fun but a little creepy. I flipped my kayak in a swamp and freaked out. Glad you are having fun. P.S. the flowers in the swamp were really pretty.

  25. I did a guided swamp walk many years ago in Big Cypress. We had a great time, but the things I remember most about that day is how hard we laughed when our fearless leader went face down in the muck and how much peat ended up in strange places. And were we tent camping, so cleaning up from said peat infestation wasn't easy.

  26. What a great hike in a very unique environment. I'll bet LL Bean would've replaced the boots--REI would've done so. And the water snake photo wasn't too bad--thank you for the warning!

  27. Great hike - the difference between seeing and doing! Definitely on our list for that area. We would love to get close to the snakes and gators but I bet they have no desire to get close to us two-legged critters! Wonderful to see the delight in your faces and I laughed out loud at the "losing your soul in the swamps"....I bet you two had the most fun of the whole group. Safe travels.

  28. I am trying to imagine people doing that swamp walk in jeans! Muddy and wet jeans must be so hard to move around in and be such a mess to clean after - but, that walk looks fun! I feel badly for the animals all those big human feet must stir up from the swamp bottom. That is hilarious about the sole of Dad's shoe, especially after determining people were losing their souls to the swamp! Unfortunate though that the boots are now gone :( Ah well...what fun you had in them while they lived! That water was deep - I bet you are part of small minority that can say they had such an experience :)

  29. Wow -- that looks even more amazing than your swamp hike last year! We were only at Big Cypress for three days in December, and missed the swamp hike. But your stories of it have convinced me that I want to do it. Will you go with me and hold my hand? Haha! That water was REALLY high on you!! Great photos.


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