Tromp through Big Cypress swamp shows soggy paradise

Photo by Leo Kay, U.S. Forest Service

Of the many tours offered Thursday, this was by far the best. At our first stop, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe fielded questions about Everglades restoration projects and we got to view the work on raising the Tamiami Trail to let the River of Grass flow beneath it for the first time in nearly a century. Then we went down the road to nature photographer Clyde Butcher’s studio, where guides from the National Park Service took us on a two-hour hike through the Big Cypress swamp. The swamp tromp gave us all a chance to see what Florida wilderness really looks like: clear, clean water; twisted cypress trees festooned with bromeliads and native orchids; a floating carnivorous plant; gnatcatchers, fish spiders and other unusual wildlife. Then, at the end of the trail, after we changed out of our soggy clothes, we were served a superb lunch of salad, soup and homemade Key lime pie from the Camellia Street Cafe in Everglades City. All in all, a terrific trip, organized by JoAnn Valenti and Mike Grunwald.

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