Tag Archives: Royal Fern

Exploring the Fakahatchee Strand Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk! (Southwest Florida)


Welcome! Today’s virtual hike will take us deep into southwest Florida’s Fakahatchee Strand Preserve via the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk. I hope you got your binoculars with you because this boardwalk is chock full of flora and fauna goodness!

Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk

Before we begin you may be wondering what in the world is a strand? A strand is generally shallow and has formed where the underlying limestone dissolved. The most common trees found are Bald Cypress, Royal Palm and Red Maple. Within the strand are numerous sloughs which are deeper channels of water. The Fakahatchee Strand is one of the most ecologically rich areas found in the greater Everglades ecosystem.

The Fakahatchee Strand is the world’s largest subtropical strand stretching around 20 miles long and about five miles wide and is the only one with a mixed Royal Palm and Cypress canopy. The park is the largest state park in Florida and contains more native orchids than any other area found in North America. This is why the nickname of the Fakahatchee Strand is the Orchid Swamp.

There are four sections in the park:

  1. Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk
  2. The East River
  3. The Jones Grade Lakes
  4. Janes Memorial Drive

The Fakatchee Strand was harvested for its cypress for ten years stretching from 1944-1954 with the exception of the portion we will explore today. The former logging site was then turned into a state park.

Birds, mammals and reptiles common to the Fakahatchee Stand include:

Common plants include:

Boardwalk

Ready? Let’s go!  As we walk along there are interpretive signs indicating the flora and fauna found in the Fakahatchee Strand. The trail from the parking lot to the boardwalk is about 856 feet long. The actual boardwalk is 2,300 feet or about .6 of a mile. The boardwalk ends at an observation deck at an alligator pond.

Laurel Oak

Here we have come across a Laurel Oak. The Laurel Oak’s native habitat includes swamps and wet hammocks. The tree can reach heights of 100 feet. In Florida, many homeowners use this tree for their yards.

Live Oak

Next we have a Live Oak. The Live Oak grows to about a maximum of fifty feet in height. The Live Oak’s acorns are popular with wildlife.

Great Egret

A blur of white appears to the side as we walk the boardwalk. Check out the beak on this bird! It’s a Great Egret. In the early 1900’s the Great Egret was pushed to the edge of extinction due to the high demand for its feathers for women’s hats. This of course was before the Migratory Bird Act of 1918.

Strangler Fig

As we walk along a huge old-growth Bald Cypress is being attacked by something. That something is a Strangler Fig. The Strangler Fig reminds me of sculptures found in the movie Beetlejuice. The tree starts life as an air plant (aka epiphyte). Once the roots of the Strangler Fig touch the ground the plant is no longer an epiphyte but is now considered a terrestrial plant. Strangler Figs can reach heights of 50-60 feet.

Sabal Palm

Royal Palm is found here. The tree is native to southern Florida and is commonly planted. But here it is wild and not planted.

Limpkin

A Limpkin is around the corner but appears a tad blurry. I thought I just got my eyes checked? You won’t find Limpkins up north. In fact, Florida is the only state in the United States with a Limpkin population.

Iris

As we walk along there are beautiful Iris in full bloom.

Water Snake

As we walk looking at the Iris flowers and other vegetation we spot something that at first looks like rope. This snake means us no harm and we keep walking.

Snag

We see many dead trees as we walk. Dead trees (aka snags) serve a valuable purpose. Insects consume the tree which provide food for a variety of birds. Woodpeckers make holes which serve their young and later provide shelter for animals such as the raccoon.

River Otter

Splash! A River Otter makes a surprise appearance. What an honor to meet its acquaintance before it slips beneath the water.

Turtle

Next we come across a hungry River Cooter who is eating non-stop. River Cooters eat anything it finds. It’s not picky! Let’s keep going!

Annihiga

Check out this guy. It is a Cormorant aka fish hawk. There must be a lot of fish in these waters to keep seeing birds like the Great Egret and this guy.

Coffee Tree

Nice! We have come across Wild Coffee. Wild Coffee is evergreen and grows to a maximum of eight feet in height. The seeds resemble coffee (hence its name) but is not actually used for coffee.

Alligator

And here is the star of today’s walk: an American Alligator. I think we will keep on moving and leave this guy to his day.

Ferns

There are many types of ferns as we walk on the boardwalk. Among them include:

Alligator Pond

We have now arrived at the end of the boardwalk. Straight ahead of us is an alligator pond teeming with wildlife (including guess who? American Alligators!)

Forest

Thank you for exploring the Fakahatchee Strand Big Cypress Boardwalk with NJUrbanForest.com!

Click below for a list of plants found in the Fakahatchee Strand!

Fakahatchee Strand Flora

Directions taken from FloridaHikes.com:

From Naples, drive 17.1 miles east from the intersection of CR 951 (Collier Blvd) along US 41 (Tamiami Trail), passing Collier-Seminole State Park and Port of the Isles. There is a very large sign on the right, but parking is in a small space to the left. Do not block the gate to the Miccosukee Village. From the east, the boardwalk is 6.9 miles west of the blinker at the intersection of US 41 and SR 27 near Everglades City, which is 17 miles south of the I-75 Everglades City / Immokalee exit.

Check out the books below for more information on Florida’s swamps!

  1. The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise
  2. Exploring Everglades National Park and the Surrounding Area: A Guide to Hiking, Biking, Paddling, and Viewing Wildlife in the Region (Exploring Series)
  3. Everglades: America’s Wetland
  4. Florida’s Wetlands (Florida’s Natural Ecosystems and Native Species)

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

Check out the latest flora and fauna sightings here!

Be sure to check out the Friends of Fakahatchee Strand for all the latest happenings!

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Hiking Mountainview Nature Park!


Mountainview Nature Park

Mountainview Nature Park

Welcome to Mountainview Nature Park!

Mountainview Nature Park

Mountainview Nature Park

Located in Central Nyack in Rockland County NY, the 83 acre park features an estimated 2.5 miles of hiking trails winding their way through an Oak-Hickory forest.

Continue reading

Exploring Rockefeller State Park Preserve’s Swan Lake!


The Rockefeller State Park Preserve

The Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Welcome to the Rockefeller State Park Preserve! Located in Sleepy Hollow, NY, the 1,000 + acre park features a variety of habitats ranging from open meadows, deciduous forest & wetlands. Rockefeller State Park Preserve is listed as an “IBA” (Important Bird Area) by the National Audubon Society. Over 180 species of birds have been documented in the preserve!

Female Yellow Warbler

Female Yellow Warbler

Common birds (depending on the time of the year) found in the preserve include the belong among others:

Virtual Tour

Welcome! Today, using the map below, we are going to explore the Swan Lake area of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve!

Trail Map

Trail map listed above taken from NY Parks.

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

The 22 acre Swan Lake was created by impounding a tributary of the Pocantico River (a tributary of the Hudson River).

Carriage Road Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Carriage Road Rockefeller State Park Preserve

The carriage roads we will be walking on were developed by John D Rockefeller Sr & John D Rockefeller Jr between the years 1910-1950. Every winter the Friends of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve evaluates which trails need fresh surface material added.  Drainage of trails is completed every spring to ensure carriage roads stay dry. Trail maintenance is a 12 month process!

Virtual Tour

After paying the minimal parking fee ($6 at the time of this writing in 2013) let’s walk over to the visitor center.

Japanese Peony

Japanese Peony

After picking up a trail map let’s check out the interesting flowering plants blooming nearby. These flowers are Japanese Peony and are known as the “King of Flowers” in Japan.

Information about The Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Just past the flowers and the visitor center there is a  kiosk chock full of information about the Rockefeller State Park preserve.

Birds and Wildflowers of the Preserve

Birds and Wildflowers of the Preserve

Here we can find excellent information regarding common flora and fauna of the preserve. All set? Let’s head towards Swan lake!

Fern Garden

Fern Garden

But first let’s poke around the Fern Garden found just past the visitor center. The fern garden is populated with Cinnamon, Royal & Sensitive Ferns among other species including some rather large Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants!

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Leaving the Fern Garden we follow a brief trail through a forest to get to Brother’s Path.

Brother's Path

Brother’s Path

We are going to be following the 1.1 mile Brother’s Path which encircles Swan Lake. As we start out heading south on the Brother’s Path, the trailhead of the .7 mile Overlook Trail appears to our right.

Overlook Trail

Overlook Trail

Let’s take a quick detour from Brother’s Path to walk a section of the  Overlook Path for a few minutes. According to the Hudson River Audubon Society website this area is one of the best spots to view Eastern Bluebirds. Eastern Bluebirds, New York’s state bird, are a small thrush whose habitats include open woodlands and meadows such as where we are right now.  Eastern Bluebird populations have experienced a decline due to strong competition from aggressive non-native birds like the House Sparrow and European Starlings.

Eastern Blue Bird (NY's State Bird!)

Eastern Blue Bird (NY’s State Bird!)

As we ponder the future fate of these birds a blue blur flies by and lands on a nesting box which has been placed in the meadow by a member of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve staff.  Ready to head back to the Brother’s Path? Let’s head back to continue our journey around Swan Lake. Heading south on Brother’s Path we see continuous views of Swan Lake mixed with occasional Flowering Dogwood to our left.

Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood, native to the eastern United States, is a common understory tree found in forest edges.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve Meadow

Rockefeller State Park Preserve Meadow

Continuing south an opening has appeared to our right providing a view of the sweeping meadows we sampled on the Overlook Trail. As we walk Swan Lake is becoming narrower. Turning east we cross over two Pocantico River tributaries draining Swan Lake.

American Beech Trees

American Beech Trees

We pass near a few American Beech trees and a Skunk Cabbage dominated wetland.

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

Passing the Farm Meadow Trailhead to our south we continue to follow the Brothers Path heading north.

Farm Meadow Trail Trailhead

Farm Meadow Trail Trailhead

Swan Lake is now on our left.

Swan Lake to our left

Swan Lake to our left

As we walk, we pass Canada Mayflower to our left in bloom.

Canada Mayflower in bloom

Canada Mayflower in bloom

Canada Mayflower is part of the Lily family and native to the Eastern United States.

Eastern Chipmunk near it's home

Eastern Chipmunk near it’s home

A sudden squeak makes an Eastern Chipmunk known to us.

Northern Black Racer

Northern Black Racer (Thanks Brian!)

I’m not sure if the chipmunk is sounding the alarm over us or this Northern Black Racer lurking nearby. Maybe both?

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

As we leave the chipmunk and snake we hear a sudden “meow” sound and realize that the sound is not coming from a cat but a bird! The bird is  a Gray Catbird. Gray Catbirds are migratory and fly to the southeaster US, Mexico and Central America for the winter months.

Striped Wintergreen

Striped Wintergreen

Continuing north and passing the trailhead to the Ridge Trail, we spot some Striped Wintergreen, a species which is considered vulnerable in New York.

Mallards near Swan Lake

Mallards near Swan Lake

Turtle Swan Lake

We cross over a Swan Lake feeder stream and pass a couple of Mallards and a turtle as we head west on the Brothers Path back to the parking lot to complete our hike. I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of Swan Lake and that it inspired you to visit it for yourself!

Click here for directions!

Click below to see a list of plants found in Rockefeller State Park:

Rockefeller State Park Flora

Recommended Books:

1) WALKABLE WESTCHESTER – The book covers over 180 parks with almost 600 miles of trails in Westchester County.

Click here for more information!

2) The Nature of New York – This work offers a sweeping environmental history of New York State. Author David Stradling shows how New York’s varied landscape and abundant natural resources have played a fundamental role in shaping the state’s culture and economy.

Click here for more information!

3) Eastern Deciduous Forest Ecology and Wildlife Conservation – This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources!

Click here for more information!

Feel free to comment with any questions, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Check out the latest bird sightings here!