Today we found ourselves canoeing through mangroves, and trudging through Big Cypress National Preserve at the Gator Hook turn off (in case you want to find it because it’s awesome!), for a day full of sun, adventure, and exploring the wilderness.
The canoe trip entailed traveling down the little crest, and out towards the Gulf of Mexico. The area along this side of the coast is called 10,000 Islands, mainly because sand has collected around the mangroves to form islands.
Our hike today was definitely one of the many highlights of the trip so far. We hiked into an area that is a mix of ecosystems. We split into two groups with our Park Service guides Lisa and Amy, then headed out into the Gator Hook area of the Preserve. We learned from our guide, Lisa, that the ecosystem down here changes drastically when the elevation changes just a few inches. There are 5 types of ecosystem in this area, listed in order lowest to highest: Mangrove, Prairie, Cypress Swamp, Upper Pine, Hardwood. This area is actually more biologically diverse than its bigger brother the Everglades. We learned a lot about the orchids and other small plants that nest in the area. Specifically, we spent some of our time in the swamp looking at a variety of water plants, and a sort of spongy mix of diatoms and all kinds of other things that combine to form a material that keeps the ground at least a little bit moist in the dry season.