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Big Cypress National Preserve Guide

Big Cypress National Preserve

Big Cypress National Preserve is a 730,000 acre national preserve. It is part of the National Park Service in the United States. 

The preserve is a popular place for hiking and bird watching. Other popular activities include off roading, with a paid permit, and kayaking and canoeing. There are eight campgrounds available for longer visits.

About Big Cypress National Preserve

When You Can Visit

The preserve is open year around, 24 hours a day. Visitors may stay overnight at one of the campgrounds in one of the campground sites or in the backcountry with a valid permit. Visitors can enter and exit the park at any time.

Occasionally, there will be closures to protect areas or to keep people safe. Pay attention to alerts from park rangers. 

The park has a Welcome Center and a Visitor Center. These buildings are open every day of the week, except for December 25th. The hours for these buildings are 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. 

The Entrance Fee

You can access the preserve without paying a fee. There are fees for off road vehicle permits and for some of the facilities, like the campgrounds. 

Each of the campgrounds has its own fee structure. They are also all open and closed at different times of year and may be closed for maintenance. You can learn more about the Big Cyrpress National Preserve campgrounds and their fees on the National Park Service website. 

What To Know Before You Visit

Are you wondering where you should stay or what time of year to visit for the best weather conditions? These are the things you should know before you visit Big Cypress National Preserve. 

Staying At the Preserve Campgrounds

There are several campgrounds available at Big Cypress National Preserve. The campgrounds have varying availability, hours, and fees associated with them. They have both RV and tent camping sites. 

To find out about temporary closures and reservations, you’ll want to call either the Oasis Visitor Center or the Big Cypress Welcome Center for more information. Most of the campgrounds can be reserved on the Recreation.gov website. 

The Weather Throughout the Year

The rainy season for the park is May through October. The dry season is November through April. 

The dry season is the best time for bird watchers. It is also the busy season for national parks in southern Florida. You can expect the campgrounds to be busier at this time, especially from December to March. 

During the wet season, there are a lot more mosquitos in the preserve. Birds and alligators are harder to spot. Some areas of the park will be difficult to visit because of rising waters, and the humidity and heat making it intolerable to walk around for too long. 

The wet season sees a lot more blooming flowers in the preserve. 

What To Bring To The Preserve

  • Mosquito repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • A refillable water bottle
  • Water shoes
  • Lightweight clothing with fuller coverage, to keep away bugs but be okay for the heat

What To Do During Your Visit

  • Enjoy a camping trip. There are eight different campground options in the park.
  • Kayak or canoe through one of the many waterways. You can enjoy this on your own or go with an approved tour operator.
  • Go on a tour. There are a number of commercial tour operators that offer unique adventures through the preserve. They cover a variety of activities, like swamp buggy tours, kayak tours, and hunting and fishing guides. The National Park Service has a list of approved tour operators you can work with.
  • Go offroading. You will need to get a permit for an offroading trip. These cost $100 per vehicle.
  • Check the calendar for ranger-led activities. The park often has something unique going on for activities you can join in on.
  • Visit the Oasis Visitor Center and the Swamp Visitor Center. These two facilities can tell you more about the preserve and what you may do while you visit.

The Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit this preserve will depend on what your personal goals are. 

If you would like to visit the preserve when there are fewer visitors around so you have a more solitary experience, you should visit in the summer.

You will want to be sure you have mosquito repellent, as the mosquitos in some areas of the park may actually be unbearable during parts of the summer.

It may be advisable to bring a head net, though these can feel silly they will keep you safe from bugs. You will also want to be prepared for extreme heat and humidity, so bring extra water and sunscreen. 

You will see less wildlife during these months, but you will be one of few people seeing it and have an easier time reserving a spot at one of the campgrounds. 

You will also see more flowers blooming during this time of year.

If you would like to visit during the best time for spotting birds, alligators, and other wildlife, you will want to visit during the winter months.

The weather will be cooler, but there will be many more tourists. 

You will still need sunscreen and mosquito repellent, but the mosquitoes and heat will be less intense at this time of year. You will need to reserve your spot at a campground far in advance.

The peak time for visitors to the park is December through March.

If you would like to see as much wildlife as possible, but also see fewer tourists, consider visiting in October or November. This brief shoulder season may still be fairly wet from the summer’s stormy months, but there the wildlife will be returning to the park and the tourists won’t yet be as common. 

Plan Your Next Visit to Big Cypress National Preserve

This national preserve has been part of the National Park Service since 1974 and has become an essential part of south Florida’s beautiful terrain. This park is a great place to see the natural swamps of Florida, bird watch, and spend some quality time in nature. 

The park is so large that even during its busier seasons, when you travel off road or on less popular trails, it doesn’t often feel too crowded. 

If you are interested in seeing swamps and a mix of tropical and temperate types of plants, you’ll want to explore Big Cypress National Preserve.

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