Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge is the northwestern cornerstone of Florida’s big green mosaic* – the greater Everglades system. Bordered by Big Cypress National Preserve to the east, with Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and Picayune State Forest to the south, this 26,000+ acres was established to help protect its namesake – the severely endangered Florida Panther.
There are only 2 short, easy trails here – a 1 ⅓ mile loop and a ⅓ mile loop – but they are both beautiful examples of today’s natural southwest Florida. And while today’s ecosystems in southern Florida are vastly different from what they were less than 100 years ago, they are protected and flourishing today. Soon this big green mosaic will see even more changes as the largest natural area restoration project in history reshapes waterflow. (See the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan – CERP)
As it is today, this entire Big Cypress/Everglades area goes through big changes every year – from very wet to various degrees of dry, depending on whether it’s the rainy or dry season. Our visit was at the end of March (2014), which is deep into the dry season. The dry season offers 2 bonuses: Cooler weather and less insects.
However, it’s on my personal Bucket List to come back and check it out again when it’s deep into the wet season. So please check out our Photo Gallery and WonderMap (below), then add this jewel to your Florida Bucket List for Nature Lovers.
* Other government lands in Florida’s big green mosaic include: Everglades National Park, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Collier-Seminole State Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and Picayune Strand State Forest and Wildlife Management Area.