The foreboding swamp surroundings can seem like the least appealing amongst the natural riches of Florida.
Yet every year, many tourists venture beyond the exquisite white-sand beaches to experience one of the best encounters with nature: swamp walks.
Here, there is no airboat, boardwalk, or kayak- just a walking stick and swamp water rising to your thighs.
What is a swamp walk?
A swamp walk entails walking through the marsh or boggy waters. It is an excellent way of exploring the remote areas and allowing the sights, sounds, and smells of Mother Earth to nourish you.
Swamp walks will also enable you to enjoy the closest view of flora and fauna.
Where you can go on a swamp walk – the Everglades
There are various places you can go on swamp walks in Florida, but the Everglades rule them all.
The Everglades features “umbrellaed” cool waters, cross-grass, Spanish moss, fern trails, and cypress trees.
Here, Swamp walks are popular in:
Big Cypress National Preserve
Swamp walking through Big Cypress National Preserve is more than a walk in the park- it’s a getaway, an adventure, and a thrill.
Covered in freshwater and dotted with dense hammocks, the swamp is essentially a slow-moving river running gently towards the Florida coast.
The 729,000 acres preserve is home to the black bear, Florida panther, alligators as well as many types of birds and reptiles.
Deep in this serene and richly diverse ecosystem, you will also find orchids, rare ferns, bromeliad, and native birds. Beneath the ancient cypress trees, you can listen to the deep tranquillity of an unspoiled world that seems far from your daily life.
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
The Fakahatchee is also known as the North American Amazon. It will have you enjoying breathtaking views of exotic flowers, trees, and animals found nowhere else in the world.
The 75,000 acre park has a protective canopy of bald cypress covering the slow-moving shallow slough or river.
The water and the canopy above create a humidity controlled environment that neither gets too warm in summers or cold in winters.
Moreover, the Fakahatchee strand is home to rare and endangered flora and fauna species, including orchids, bromeliads, and groves of native royal palms.
What to expect swamp walking the Everglades
Swamp walking is not a daredevil endeavor or burdensome slog through muck.
Here is what to expect when you go swamp walking in the Everglades:
A therapeutic experience
Swamp walks in the preserves are a relaxing communion with one of the most astounding ecosystems in the world. You will notice the stillness except the sounds of cawing birds, grunts of frogs, and swishing waters.
Countless plant life
A delicate patch of flowers can appear suddenly amidst the wall of green. You can also find floating hearts, flag iris, arrowhead plants, bladderwort, porter weed, duck potato, and pond apples.
Unlike the dubious notion that swamp walking is a muddy encounter, the adventure typically entails clear water. Detritus from fallen leaves usually form a spongy bottom (it is not mud).
Fantastic walks with no alligator encounters
A walk runs for about 2 hours, and you might cover only half a mile. That is because; a swamp is not a place to rush but a destination to enjoy the serenity.
Furthermore, it is highly unlikely to encounter alligators. While they live in the Everglades, alligators prefer deeper water than where you will be walking.
Best time of year for a swamp walk
Depending on the time of the year, the Everglades National Park waters can reach up to your waist, but mostly it stays lower than your thighs.
November through to April is an excellent time to visit because of the dry weather, cooler temperatures, and availability of free ranger-led swamp walks. Also, and very importantly, mosquitoes will be less of a nuisance during these months.
What to bring during your swamp walk
Swamp walks are inherently different from conventional hiking since you start and finish your hike in the water. Some essential items can make the task more comfortable and enjoyable.
Proper footwear– old sneakers or tennis shoes work best. Since you will be getting wet, you don’t have to bring an expensive pair of hiking boots.
Long nylon pants– the open prairies have saw grass, with serrated edges that can injure bare skin. Covering your legs alleviates any painful scratches. Besides, the nylon material allows the pant to dry out quickly.
Buff or neck covering long-sleeved shirts– this will keep you warm in the cool waters while keeping the mosquitos off the neck and hands.
Change of clothes– these will make your ride back to your home or campground a dry and comfortable one.
Walking stick– the uneven soil can be challenging to walk on. The stability of a walking stick will ensure a safer and less strenuous walk.
Other vital items– mosquito repellent, sunglasses, hat, and dry waterproof bag (for camera gear and cellphone)
Here are a couple of helpful tips for your next swamp walk:
- Walk slowly and use your walking stick for checking murky water around you (most of the water will be clear depending when you visit).
- Make sure to look up as well as down, there are a ton of unique air plants and orchids above you!
- Wear shoes that you can tie tight in case you step in mud, you don’t want to lose a shoe. Avoid waterproof shoes, you want the water to be able to drain out.
Swamp Walk Tours
There are different ways to access the pristine watery wetlands- one being on a guided swamp walk with:
Fakahatchee swamp tours
The Fakahatchee offers swamp walks with volunteer naturalists or rangers on the first three Saturdays of the month between November and March. It charges $70 and $15 for those who are 12 and under.
Big Cypress swamp tours
Ranger-led swamp walks are available from mid-November to end of March. During this time, the rangers offer two an advanced eight-mile, six-hour walks. The tours are free but will require reservations.
Clyde Butcher’s tours
Guided swamp walks at Clyde butchers are on Saturdays from October to March for $50 and $25 for persons under 18. You can take the leisurely walk through the submerged grounds behind the photographer Clyde.
Everglades swamp tours
Experience the primordial beauty of the Everglade when you take the guided swamp walks that are free from Dec. 21 to April. But, you will need prior reservations.
Ultimately, a swamp walk evokes exhilarating feelings. It is fun and thrilling to walk in the footsteps of wild panthers, alligators, and bears.
You will marvel at the pristine splendor of nature as you traverse through a rarely seen world, rich of vibrant colors and mysterious sounds. Besides, you get to relish the wonders and awes of nature in her most sacred and purest state.