|Larry in the mangroves|
|Reflections show dense foliage we kayaked through|
|We kayaked past alligators in the swampy waters|
Big Cypress National Reserve was created in 1974 to protect water quality, natural resources, and ecological integrity of Big Cypress Swamp. It is home to the American alligator, Florida’s largest reptile. Anhingas, egrets, and herons are plentiful. Lucky visitors may see river otter, bobcats, black bear, and the endangered Florida panther. A variety of plants, including tiny purple orchids and spiky bromeliads were in rare bloom during our October adventure.
|Larry emerges from the mangroves|
After our break, we glided under a low bridge, slithering our bodies way down into our boats for passage. Shortly after that our guide suggested we separate paddles to better maneuver through tight spaces. Lunch time came with nary a parking spot in sight, so we backed our kayaks into a tiny cove and devoured our packaged sandwiches.
Back on the trail, we entered the mangrove tunnel where paddling was impossible. Abandoning our paddles at this point, we used our hands to grab and go. That technique worked fine as long as stumps, roots, and vines were within easy reach, which wasn’t always the case. Thoughts of stopping to take pictures vanished as the current didn’t allow movement to pause. The moment I let the kayak drift I ended up stuck in a clump of sawgrass and had even more work to get myself free and pointed in the right direction.
|Lovely reflections when the pool opened up after mangroves|
At one point the guide hitched my kayak to hers, and the two of us cleared a path for the others through thick hydrilla. After struggling through the mangroves, the river suddenly opened into a spectacular pool, the perfect sport for reflecting on our journey.
Big Cypress National Reserve manages a broad range of recreational activities including kayaking/canoeing, hiking, and hunting. The entire Turner River Paddling Trail covers almost 10 miles and takes four to seven hours depending on river conditions and ability of the kayakers.
Photos by Beverly Burmeier
Read about riding the bicycle trail at Shark Valley in the Everglades at http://www.stripedpot.com/
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