Annual 60-Day ORV Closure for Wheeled Vehicles
Beginning at 12:01 am Monday, June 3, the annual 60-day recreational ORV closure for all units of the Preserve that allow for wheeled ORV access will begin. The closure will be lifted on Friday, August 2. More »
Beginning Monday, May 13 through Friday, August 16 camping will be available at the Midway Campground and the “loop” in the Bear Island Campground within Big Cypress National Preserve. All other established campgrounds will be closed. More »
Interstate 75 Mile Marker 63 Closure
Beginning summer of 2013 the rest area and backcountry access at mile marker 63 will be closed due to construction. More »
Big Cypress National Preserve is a prime example of natural Florida unfamiliar to most visitors, filled with natural wonders that are also potential hazards at times. There is no guarantee of your safety, yet it need not be dangerous. Whether exploring the backcountry, canoeing in Turner River, observing wildlife, or simply driving on Tamiami Trail, let safety be your constant companion. Regulations are strictly enforced to protect you and the preserve's wonders. Spend a moment reviewing these common safety concerns, so that you will have an enjoyable visit.
Travel Notification and Emergency Contacts
In case of an emergency, call Preserve Dispatch at 800-788-0511.
Remember, you share the road with bicyclists and pedestrians. Florida state law requires a 3-foot buffer between vehicles and bicycles.
Finding your way in the backcountry can be difficult, even for experienced outdoor enthusiasts. Familiarize yourself with trails before traveling into the Preserve. A GPS unit and coordinates can save a life, keep the tracking system on at all times if possible. Carry a compass and map, and know how to navigate using these tools.
Tropical heat can kill you. The average high temperature in Florida during the summer months is around 95 degrees. Factoring in humidity, the heat index often soars to over 100 degrees. It is very easy to get overheated, or dehydrated while participating in outdoor activities. Carry plenty of water (at least one gallon per person, per day) and wear a hat, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, and sunscreen when hiking. Plan ahead and bring water with you, or stock up at the Oasis Visitor Center or Big Cypress Welcome Center. Though it is not recommended, if you do collect water in the backcountry, be sure to treat it properly to destroy any microscopic organisms. Use caution when hiking during mid-day in summer; travel as wild animals do, in the early morning or late evening hours rather than during the high heat of the mid day. If you can't quench your thirst or become lightheaded and nauseated, you may be suffering from heat exhaustion. Find a shaded location and rest, drinking water slowly before the more severe heat stroke can set in.
South Florida receives more lightning strikes than anywhere else in the United States and there are more casualties from lightning strikes than all other natural hazards combined. Thunderstorms are common in the summer months, appearing almost every afternoon like clockwork. In the winter months, storms and lightning are less frequent, but may be as severe. In the event that a storm builds, stay as close to the ground as possible and stay away from tall trees or isolated tall objects. A ditch or shrubby area is the safest place to be.
Click here for a short video highlighting important items to pack before coming out to the Preserve.
Venomous snakes, scorpions and spiders are active year round. Inspect your shoes and sleeping bags or bedding before use and always carry a flashlight at night. While snake bites are rare, they usually occur below the knee or elbow. None are aggressive, but can strike if provoked. Pay attention to where you walk and place your hands. Consider wearing high boots or protective leggings while hiking. Stay a safe distance from any wildlife. If you are bitten by a snake, it is crucial to exit the backcountry and go to the nearest emergency room.
Several poisonous plants can be found throughout the preserve and it is important to be familiar with them. Poison ivy is very common, usually found as a creeping vine. Keep the phrase "leaves of three, let it be" in mind when moving through dense vegetation. Poisonwood is also found in the southern portion of the preserve, identified by its shiny, leathery green leaves. Both species can cause red, itchy rashes. Some people may also have a similar reaction to Brazilian pepper, an exotic shrub found commonly throughout the preserve. Check with your local pharmacy for products that can be applied before and after contact with either species. Keep these safety tips in mind as you enjoy your experience in Big Cypress National Preserve. Please travel safely in the backcountry.
Big Cypress is panther country. While panther attacks are rare, they do occur. Should you encounter an aggressive panther, hold your ground, wave your arms, throw stones, and shout. Never run. Keep groups together and consider hiking elsewhere with young children if you come across a special panther warning sign posted at a trailhead. It is strongly advised to not hike alone.
Keep in mind that Big Cypress is home to a variety of creatures, including large species such as panthers, alligators and black bears. It is important that we act respectfully and never approach or feed the wildlife. Although they sometimes appear tame, all of the animals in the preserve are wild, and could pose a threat to your health and safety if you attempt to approach or feed them. Most wildlife will move off the trail when it hears you coming, but in the event that you meet an alligator on the trail, give it a wide berth and do not attempt to move it yourself. To prevent these creatures from becoming habituated to people, store all food, coolers, cooking utensils, and toiletries in a hard-sided vehicle, preferably in the trunk of your car. Dispose of garbage properly. Remember to report sightings of bears and panthers to a ranger.
Fire danger is always an important safety consideration in Big Cypress. Wood or ground fires are sometimes prohibited in the preserve and you must exercise caution in the use of gas stoves, charcoal grills, and cigarettes. Big Cypress occasionally experiences drought conditions and some restrictions may apply to the use of these heat sources. Check with a ranger for the latest information about fire safety in the preserve.
Big Cypress truly is wild country. In fact, many people visit Big Cypress precisely because it is remote and rugged. But remember, as you enjoy the splendor of this great wilderness area, to make safety a priority. By giving forethought to your actions you can have a safe, exciting, and rewarding vacation in Big Cypress National Preserve.
Did You Know?
The purple galinule though one of the most colorful birds in Big Cypress, is often well camouflaged. Look carefully along canal edges and gator holes for this beautiful bird. Many of the surrounding colors blend well with the birds feathers.