Our 16 mile journey through Picayune Strand State Forest and Wildlife Management Area started deep in the forest at the border of Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. Having driven the 11-mile length of Janes Scenic Drive, we decided to find our way back to civilization through Picayune.
The best route through Picayune Strand State Forest from the end of Janes Scenic Drive in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park back to civilization was not at all well marked. And the roads seemingly haven’t been maintained since sometime in the middle of the last century, though there is a great deal of construction going on involving earth moving and drainage pipes toward the end of the drive. As I later found out, while it appeared to be development moving into the forest, it’s actually quite the opposite.*
There are many side roads and canals, so it can be a bit confusing. My wife was not at all confident of my navigation skills – after all, I had driven us out of cell phone range. When we pulled up to a T-intersection, with only left or right to choose, my wife spied a pickup truck approaching. To my horror, she insisted I flag them down and ask which is the best way for us to turn. Understanding that she was experiencing civilization disconnect syndrome, I complied.
The good old boy in the passenger’s seat of the pickup truck pointed back the way they’d come and rattled off a string of directions and even a caution about a particularly nasty hole in the roadway. Most of which I instantly forgot. But we were pointed in the right direction, assuming they weren’t misdirecting us for some good old boy fun. And my wife remembered the name of one particular street that sounded very close to civilization.The good news for you is that I made a WonderMap of the route, so if you want to make the same trip, just follow the same route.
Much of the roadway here was in pretty rough shape. It was impossible to maintain even 20 mph through most of the 16 miles that we drove through Picayune Strand, with many craters that slowed us down to a crawl. Check out the speed profile on our WonderMap and you’ll see what I’m talking about. We were lucky it was dry – I’d hate trying to judge the depth of all those potholes filled with water. That being said, we were in no hurry, so it posed no problems.
Although this is a state forest, large areas are open, wet prairie (marsh). There are also cypress strands, pine flatwoods and hardwood hammocks. Canals are strewn throughout. And there is a 3.2 mile hiking trail, the Sabal Palm Hiking Trail, featuring 100+ year old cypress trees. This trail is part of the state’s Trailwalker Hiking Program.
For you equestrians, the Belle Meade Tract boasts a 22 mile horse trail, complete with 10 paddocks, non-potable water and a camping area. This is also part of the state’s Trailtrotter Program. Of course, all horses within the forest must have current negative Coggins Test results and each rider must carry proof of such.
*There is a massive project underway to restore the flow of water through this forest to its natural course, the way it was before big real estate drained it. This project will remove 45 miles of canals and 227 miles of roads that were built by land developers. This is actually part of the largest environmental restoration project in history, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Thank you to all agencies and organizations involved!
Bottom Line: If you enjoy a long drive on remote country roads, this drive is for you. Check out our Photo Gallery and the WonderMap below. Then plan a visit to see this Florida Natural Wonder.
Note: This WonderMap includes Janes Scenic Drive through Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
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