Monday, January 24, 2022

Adventures in outdoor wonderland

The Rangers, from left to right, Henry Gonzalez, Pinar Sevindik, Meredith Kruse, Jerry Innis, Chris Kimball, Peter Brockmann, Kirby Wilson, Maulik Patel, Michelle Craig. Photos by Jim Sousa

The Rangers, from left to right, Henry Gonzalez, Pinar Sevindik, Meredith Kruse, Jerry Innis, Chris Kimball, Peter Brockmann, Kirby Wilson, Maulik Patel, Michelle Craig. Photos by Jim Sousa

Less than ten miles away from Marco Island is the Big Cypress Swamp, once occupied by the Caloosa Indians and the Spanish, and the last refuge of the Seminoles, says the sign that greets you at the Collier Seminole State Park. The region is drained in a north-south direction by creeks, rivers, sloughs and swamps. Abounding in wildlife, trees, plants, shrubs and flowers… fertile hammock forests dot the higher lands… [and] the ever present cypress, called “wood eternal,” is the oldest living thing on earth.

Although, at this time of year, it’s hot, muggy and buggy, and it rains almost every afternoon, you can take pleasure in the dramatic storms and beautiful flowering plants that await you at the Collier Seminole State Park. View alligator, raccoons, osprey, white ibis, other wading birds, and all kinds of wildlife.

Bring your bicycle for off road biking on Historic Marco Road along a 3.5 mile course surrounded by marsh, hammock and pine flatwood. Or bring a canoe or kayak and take a ride along the13.6-mile canoe trail that flows down the twisting Black Water River through a mangrove forest.

Even if you live close by, if you’re adventurous and want to feel like you’re “getting away from it all,” why not plan to pitch your tent on this tropical outpost on the edge of the Everglades, and stay for a night or two? The park campsites have water, electricity, restrooms with showers and a screened-in activity building. The 120 campsites accommodate all campers, from tents to large motor homes. All are nestled among majestic royal palms and colorful gumbo limbo trees. Bring the whole family. The children will enjoy the playground and you can bring along your pets too.

If you like hiking, and really want to get away by yourself, there is a primitive campsite located approximately three miles from the parking area along the six-mile hiking trail north of Highway 41. You can enjoy the 6.5-mile hiking trail that winds through pine flatwoods and cypress swamp, and you can observe the great variety of vegetation and wildlife at the park. Or enjoy a .9 mile self-guided nature trail featuring a boardwalk system and observation platform overlooking the salt




Can you imagine what it was like for settlers who came to the area more than a hundred years ago to build houses and live in the Ten Thousand Islands? You can visit Grocery Place and see the remains of two cisterns used to collect rain water by folks who lived and traded in this remote spot more than one hundred years ago. These are the last remnants of the life of the Stephens family, who dismantled their Marco Island house, and brought it, piece by piece by boat to re-assemble it at this site that is now a primitive campsite. Up to six people or three small tents can camp at the site, approximately nine miles from the park boat basin. It’s only accessible by boat or canoehow’s that for adventure?

If you’re a boater and want a change of scenery, the Blackwater River flows through the park and allows access to the Ten Thousand Islands by boat. The boat ramp will accommodate small to medium vessels during low tide and most boats during high tide.  Don’t forget to bring your fishing equipment (and fishing license), too!

Collier Seminole Park is home to a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark: If you ever wondered how the Tamiami Trail Highway was built across the wet lands of the Big Cypress Swamp between Naples and Miami, you can see first-hand the last existing Bay City Walking Dredge, built in 1924, right here on display in the park.

I’ve saved the best ’til last. There is so much to take in at the park and so much to learn, and you will learn from the best. These highly qualified Park Rangers are the park’s best resource! They will greet you warmly and they will take care of you during your visit. They will take you on guided walks in the winter season. Best of all, they will impart to you their knowledge of, and tremendous passion and dedication to, this beautiful place over which they are the guardians.

Collier-Seminole State Park is located at 20200 E. Tamiami Trail, Naples, Florida 34114. The park is open from 8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year. Admission is $5 per vehicle. Call (239) 394-3397 or visit for information.

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