About three years ago we headed south to tip of Florida, to Flamingo in the Everglades National Park. Because of the remote location of Flamingo, we never saw the north side of Everglades National Park and its companion Big Cypress National Preserve which are located closer to Naples, Florida. So, for the mid-January trip, we headed to Collier-Seminole State Park to camp and visit the Everglades.
Collier-Seminole State Park is located on the Tamiami Trail with Naples as the nearest city, and sits on the western side of the Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades. The park has a campground with electric and sewer hook-ups, and a dump site. A number of the sites are close together, and you get more of an RV park feel than a state park feel in most of the campground. There are a few sites that have generous space, and we didn’t have any problem maneuvering and parking. The on-site volunteers are a great group of folks, and put on an ice-cream social on Friday and Saturday nights, with the proceeds going to the Friends of Collier-Seminole State Park. So the camping was great. The park has a canoe launch and dock, and a few nature trails, one which goes through a Royal Palm Hammock. We tried a ranger program that was scheduled at two hours for the Royal Palm Hammock trail. The trail is no more than a mile, and after 20 minutes and we hadn’t moved more than 100 yards from the start of the trail, we decided that we could walk the trail on our own. Also at the park is a “walking dredge,” which is a mechanical shovel apparatus that was used to create the Tamiami Trail. The thing is huge, and a must see for anyone that likes big machinery.
We also took the time to go over and visit the Everglades, the point of our trip. You can visit the Big Cypress Preserve, and the Shark Valley Visitor’s center. At Shark Valley there is a seven mile trail to an observation tower. The trail is a paved road, and trams do run on a regularly scheduled basis, or you can walk or ride a bike. We took our bikes (although rentals are available) and cruised back and forth to the observation tower. The road is flat, and you will see more gators than you can count and a lot of birds. There is a walking trail at the observation tower, that brings you up close to the gators, like the one above that blocked our path for a few minutes. The path was an out and back trail, and when we walked out, there was no gator on the path. When we started walking back, the gator was there, between us and our bikes. He finally moved when we started trying to walk through the woods around him and made a lot of noise.