I finally made it to the southernmost end of Florida and the greater Everglades ecoregion – I spent a week in and around Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve, adventuring by foot, boat, and bicycle and getting wet, muddy, and mosquito-bitten in the process! It was different from what I had expected, and I discovered some fascinating facts to pass on! Fresh water flowing slowly but steadily towards the ocean, over surface bedrock, has created five distinct ecosystems within those 4,000 square miles. The next few posts will go into more depth on what I learned and experienced, and provide some recommendations for exploring this area in even greater depth! Enjoy!
Oct 30- 31, 2010
Miles 8369 – 8748
Stowell, TX to Little River, AR
After crossing the Bolivar Peninsula, I headed more or less straight north, and got to the Big Thicket Preserve in the late afternoon. I immediately recognized both that it would be a very interesting place to explore and that it was getting too late to do it that day. I opted instead to find a place to spend the night, and by the time I had done that I was on the north side of the preserve. After two months on the road, I was itching to be back home, and never got to explore the area… but you will be sure to see it on my upcoming “top ten list of places I want to go back to!”
What makes the Big Thicket Preserve so interesting to a plant geek like myself is that it is at the intersection of four major ecological zones of the country, and as such has an amazing variety of flora in a relatively small geographical area. The headline of the preserve’s brochure reads, “Unusual Combinations of the Ordinary,” and if you haven’t gotten the hint from my past posts, this kind of fusion is what gets me the most excited. I had driven north from the coast, away from the dry plains landscape of central Texas, through a hundred miles of lowland swamps and coastal bayous, and all of a sudden was seeing not only several
different species of pine trees but also magnolias, tupelo, sweetgum, cypress, and hickories, not to mention about ten different kinds of oaks – the Water Oak being one that I had never seen before. That was only in a short walk that I did right in Martin Dies Jr. State Park! An equal variety of herbaceous plants would have greeted me earlier in the year, and birds, fish, reptiles, and mammals of all sorts were hidden in the woods, swamps, and meadows around me. Because of this diversity, the Big Thicket is a little bit different from other National Parks and Preserves in that it is not a large block of land, but rather several separate corridors totaling about 100,000 acres within about 1800 square miles! Definitely plenty for everyoneto do… at least everyone who enjoys outdoor recreation.
Though reluctant to leave such a cool site, I trucked on into Arkansas, and spent a little while exploring Texarkana, where I had a good lunch at a café and got some great fudge at Shelly’s Bakery (oh, and an oil change, too… funny how you need a couple of those when you drive 10,000 miles). I stayed at a fairly nondescript campground at Millwood State Park, next to a large impounded lake and some train tracks, a little ways northwest of Hope, where I headed on the next day…