Florida Getaways of the Day
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Big Cypress: Bike or drive the Turner River Road( PHOTO COURTESY OF THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY )
This a 17 mile graded-dirt drive beginning at the H.P. Williams Roadside Park on the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41). The park offers restrooms, picnic tables and a platform for viewing wildlife.
Drive north on Turner River Road, west on Wagon Wheel Road, and south onto Birdon Road, ending up back at U.S. 41. Turner River Road continues north toward Bear Island Camprground area.
The Turner River Road acts as a dam through the swamp, cutting off the Turner River from its source, so culverts allow water flow into the river. This is an old logging road, where cypress trees were harvested at the rate of one-million board feet per week. The road is now lined by open prairie and stands of cypress that are descendant from the original trees.
The canal alongside the road, which were dug out to build up the road, is a big attraction for wading birds and alligators, who prey on fish forced to the surface by low oxygen levels in the water. Birds you are likely to see include great blue heron, great egret, cattle egret, snowy egret, little blue heron, tri-colored heron, anhinga double-crusted cormorant, wood storks and ibis..
There are 15 access points along Turner River Road where off-road vehicles can access the backcountry, so expect to see swamp buggies along your route. If you bring your own off-road vehicle, you need a permit, which can be obtained at the Oasis Visitor Center.
On the web, you can download a PDF brochure that guides you mile by mile along the Turner River Road at www.nops.gov/bicy